Tag Archives: Stereotypes

Bonbons and Bad Moms: An Anthropological Exploration of Chocolate and Gender

The “bonbon-eating housewife” narrative is so pervasive that it has become a rallying cry for stay-at-home-moms who feel underappreciated and overworked despite their reputation for laziness. In dozens of blog posts, these stay-at-home mothers decry the injustice of this stereotype, mocking the image of the bon-bon obsessed housewife in satirical articles and feminist op-eds. It seems as though this stereotype became widely accepted with the advent of the multi-camera situational comedy — one of the most widely-known models of how American family life is and should be. Since the earliest days of the multi-camera sitcom, the modern housewife has been stereotyped in the media as indulgent, lazy, and chocolate-crazy. The 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy and the 1990s sitcom Married … With Children provide perspective on the evolution of this stereotype and gendered assumptions we make about chocolate confections and the people who consume them. Through analyzing contemporary criticism of the “lazy housewives with bonbons” archetype, we can develop an understanding of how modern feminism challenges this narrative and how chocolate could be less strongly associated with femininity in the future. This association between housewifery, misogynistic narratives about women’s economic value, and the bonbon can help us to more clearly understand the cultural relationship between chocolate and femininity.

First, we must explore what a chocolate bonbon is and how it became associated with middle-class womanhood. A bonbon is typically a piece of candy — usually nougat, caramel, or other soft candies — covered in a thin coating of chocolate. While truffles are traditionally defined as balls of chocolate ganache covered in a thicker layer of chocolate, Americans often use the terms “bonbon” and “truffle” interchangeably to describe a small, bite-sized, chocolatey piece of candy. “Bonbon” can be roughly translated to “goody goody” in French, and French confectioners have been creating these sweet, delicate treats for centuries (ChocolateNoise.com). In the pre-industrial period, bonbons were handmade luxury goods, filled with expensive ingredients like candied fruit and nuts. Without mechanized equipment, confectioners had to hand-temper chocolate and cook candy with unreliable heat sources, hand-craft and coat each morsel of candy with chocolate, and sell them in small storefronts (France Today). Therefore, bonbons were a small-batch luxury good rather than a treat that any housewife could afford.

With the dawn of industrialization, many confectioners could streamline the process of producing bonbons. By the 19th century, confectioners could use mechanized equipment to produce bonbons more quickly and reliably — they no longer had to hand-sculpt each candy. The benefits of this more efficient bonbon-making process can be seen in the below video, in which a confection uses industrial cooking vessels and molds to easily produce many bonbons (Insider).

Increased sugar production in the Caribbean and other European colonial territories made sugary goods of every variety more affordable for middle- and working-class families (Mintz, 174). By the 20th century, a variety of bonbons and truffles were being produced in the United States, including the ice cream bonbon, which were largely sold in movie theaters and sports stadiums in addition to grocery stores (The Nibble). A 1988 New York Times article mentioned ice cream bonbons as one of international food conglomerate Nestle’s most popular chocolate products (Feder). Today, Americans buy over 36 million boxes of chocolate (typically filled with bonbons) for Valentine’s Day every year (Shah)! Clearly, the chocolate bonbon is one of America’s most treasured chocolate confections, but it is not clear how modern Americans came to associate bonbons with lazy stay-at-home mothers and the fraught gender politics of womanhood and work.

Perhaps the earliest example of this “lazy bonbon-eating housewife” stereotype can be found in Lucille Ball and Desi Arnazs’ semi-autobiographical 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy. In the show, Lucy is depicted as a funny, confident, and somewhat scatterbrained wife and mother. In contrast to other television mothers from the so-called “Golden Age of Television” (the late 1940s to the early 1960s), Lucy was the star of the show and frequently proved her husband wrong. Where Leave it to Beaver’s June Cleaver was demure, Lucy was vibrant and opinionated. Where The Honeymooners’ Alice Kramden was bitter, Lucy was witty and pleasant. However, despite her character’s originality and complexity, Lucy was still subject to the gender expectations of her time. Like many married woman of her time, Lucy was a housewife and stay-at-home mother, and I Love Lucy frequently focused on disagreements between breadwinner Ricky Ricardo and his supposedly-lazy wife.

This conflict came to a head in the famous I Love Lucy episode “Job Switching” ( In the episode, Ricky accuses Lucy of being a lazy spendthrift who doesn’t appreciate how hard he works to put food on the table. In turn, Lucy accuses Ricky of failing to understand how difficult it is to be a homemaker. To settle their disagreement, Lucy and Ricky agree to switch jobs — Lucy and her friend Ethel spend a day making bonbons in a chocolate factory because they are talented makers and consumers of bonbons. At the same time, Ricky and Ethel’s husband Fred spend the day as “housewives.” Both groups fail spectacularly at their new “jobs,” as seen in the clips below.

This seems to reinforce the idea that Lucy and Ethel are naturally suited to housewifery while Ricky and Fred are naturally suited to work outside the home. When Lucy and Ricky resolve their differences at the end of the episode, Ricky presents Lucy with a five pound box of chocolates to show his appreciation for her hard work (This Was Television). This joke is ironic because Lucy has just spent a terrible day working in a chocolate factory, but also because housewives stereotypically love a box of chocolate bonbons. Early 1950s sitcoms were largely not as interested in subverting or exploring gender stereotypes as they were in reinforcing these stereotypes. Because Lucy in many ways represented the “model housewife,” she was traditionally feminine, took pleasure in domestic work and motherhood, and devoted to her husband. Her stereotypically feminine love of chocolate bonbons was an integral part of this “zany domestic goddess” image.

By the 1990s, many sitcoms were significantly less interested in upholding “traditional family values.” For example, in the irreverent sitcom Roseanne, eponymous main character Roseanne was a beleaguered working mother rather than a cheerful, polished housewife, and family comedy Full House abandoned the traditional nuclear family model altogether, instead centering around three men raising a family together. Perhaps no series embodies the genre-bending 1990s sitcom better than Married… With Children. The show centers around the Bundy family: Al, a misanthropic shoe salesman; Peggy, a profoundly lazy housewife; and their often-bratty children, Kelly and Bud. In many ways, Married… With Children is a perverse satire of the traditional family sitcom a la I Love Lucy, particularly because Peggy Bundy makes little effort to be an exemplary wife, mother, and homemaker. Instead, Peggy spends every day literally sitting on her couch and eating chocolate bonbons. Bonbons have become so closely associated with the character of Peggy Bundy that multiple recipes can be found online for “Peggy Bundy’s Bonbons,” including a recipe for “Peggy Bundy’s Lazy Day Coconut Bonbons.” The recipe description characterizes Peggy as “selfish and lazy” and associates theses qualities with Peggy’s habit of “watching Oprah and eating bonbons” (Eat Out Loud).

This association between Peggy’s gender, occupation, character, and love of chocolate bonbons is an extreme example of the way in which the “housewife with bonbons” stereotype had become widespread by the late 20th century. Peggy Bundy was the embodiment of every negative stereotype about housewives in the 1990s, when the female employment rate reached its all-time high of 57.4% by the end of the decade (Statista). Her ever-present box of chocolate bonbons signaled to the audience that she was the quintessential self-indulgent housewife who did not “produce” anything. Today, many online articles about the character, published by news and tabloid outlets like Time, Newsday, and Us Magazine mention her love of bonbons in describing her laziness and self-centeredness. Clearly, bonbons have been largely recast as an affordable, indulgent treat for the lazy housewife rather than handmade luxury items at the pinnacle of haute-patiserie. Peggy Bundy embodies our contemporary anxieties around the role of women as housewives as many women seek employment outside of the home, as well as our understanding of once-expensive goods as mass-produced commodities in the industrial era.

This popular association between one of television’s most dysfunctional mothers and the chocolate bonbon has sparked an online movement among housewives. The “housewives and bonbons” stereotype has become a reference point for many discussions of the value of women’s domestic work, like an Ohio housewife’s blog Bonbons and Martinis: The Diary of a Modern Housewife (BonBons & Martinis); satirical articles on housewife-oriented media outlets like the article “Children Removed From Home Where SAHM Eats Bonbons And Watches TV All Day” on SammichesandPsychMeds.com (Sammiches and Psych Meds); and practical columns in women’s magazines, like the article “9 Things Not to Say to a Stay-At-Home-Mom” in Women’s Day. This rejection of the “housewives and bonbons” stereotype isn’t necessarily an anti-feminist paean to the virtues of motherhood. Rather, they can be understood as a feminist reclamation of the value of traditionally-female domestic labor, whether the authors of these articles would label themselves feminists or not. In the same way that I Love Lucy’s Lucy Ricardo refused to let her husband degrade her work as a housewife and Married… With Children’s Peggy Bundy embraced her box of bonbons instead of becoming a picture-perfect stay-at-home-mom, these housewives are rejecting the stereotype that they are either a Lucy Ricardo or a Peggy Bundy.

Works Cited

“The Life and Times of Chocolate, Part 4.” Chocolate Noise. http://www.chocolatenoise.com/the-life-and-times-of-chocolate-part-4/

“French Bonbons.” France Today. https://www.francetoday.com/food-drink/french_bonbons/

“How BonBons are Made.” YouTube, uploaded by Insider, 2 May, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHTcrK0NGv4

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

“Product: Ice Cream Bonbons.” The Nibble: Great Food Finds, 14 November, 2010. https://www.thenibble.com/blog/2010/11/14/product-ice-cream-bonbons/

Feder, Barnaby J. “Carnation’s Big Ice Cream Bet.” The New York Times, 1988. https://www.nytimes.com/1988/11/27/business/carnation-s-big-ice-cream-bet.html

Shah, Khushbu. “Americans Will Spend $18.9 Billion on Valentine’s Day.” Eater, 9 February, 2015. https://www.eater.com/2015/2/9/8004991/americans-will-spend-18-9-billion-on-valentines-day

“Televising Masculinities: I Love Lucy: Expectations of the Sitcom Husband in the early 1950s (Part 2).” This Was Television, 11 September, 2002. https://thiswastv.com/2012/09/11/televising-masculinities-i-love-lucy-expectations-of-the-sitcom-husband-in-the-early-1950s-part-2/

“I Love Lucy: Job Switching.” YouTube, uploaded by calvin Fx, 16 January, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvYZ3gpZMpY

“I Love Lucy’s Famous Chocolate Scene.” YouTube, uploaded by History104WWU, 19 May, 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NPzLBSBzPI

“Peggy Bundy’s Lazy Day Coconut Bonbons (Married With Children.” Eat Out Loud, 12 February, 2017. https://eatoutloud.com/peggy-bundys-lazy-day-coconut-bonbons-married-with-children/

“Employment Rate of Women in the United States from 1990 to 2017.” Statista. https://www.statista.com/statistics/192396/employment-rate-of-women-in-the-us-since-1990/

“Top 10 TV Moms June Cleaver Would Hate.” Time, 18 October, 2010. http://entertainment.time.com/2010/10/19/top-10-tv-moms-june-cleaver-would-hate/

“Memorable Moms in TV and Movies.” Newsday, 13 May, 2018. https://www.newsday.com/entertainment/movies/memorable-moms-in-movies-and-tv-1.1887347

“Sofia Vergara Gets a Sexy Peggy Bundy Makeover and Asks, ‘Do You Like This Look, Ed O’Neill?’” US Magazine, 3 September, 2015. https://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/sofia-vergara-gets-a-peggy-bundy-makeover-teases-ed-oneill-picture-201539/

“About.” BonBons & Martinis: The Diary of a Modern Housewife. https://bonbonsandmartinis.wordpress.com/about/

“Children Removed From Home Where SAHM Eats Bonbons And Watches TV All Day.” Sammiches and Psych Meds. https://www.sammichespsychmeds.com/children-removed-from-home-where-mother-eats-bonbons-and-watches-daytime-soaps/

“9 Things Not to Say to a Stay-At-Home-Mom.” Women’s Day, 30 January, 2012. https://www.womansday.com/relationships/family-friends/a6293/what-not-to-say-to-stay-at-home-moms/

Meet Theo

Theo Bromine. He’s bitter, but sometimes he can cheer you up if you’re having a bad day at work. Others call him an alkaloid. His real name is Theo Bromine. Those in the cacao industry know him as one word – theobromine. Traces of theobromine can be found in cacao. Cacao is the raw product, it takes ten stages before it becomes chocolate. The effect of consuming cacao is similar to caffeine, it gives you that instant boost of energy. The origin of Theobroma cacao trees can be found in the Brazilian Amazon where cacao is a big part of Brazil’s economic and cultural history.

Cacao trees are pretty finicky. They need warm climate, hot, but not too hot. Most of the production of cacao is in West Africa – 72%, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana to be exact. Because of climate change, there are elevating temperatures and a possibility that the cacao crops could be eliminated. If you’ve avoided the conversation around climate change, scrolled down when you saw the crying polar bears on social media, grimaced when you heard your neighbor bought a Prius,  and slept through a class showing of An Inconvenient Truth, now is the time to pay attention to climate change. Why? Because your chocolate consumption could be seriously affected.

cacao tree
Cacao Tree

Factors affecting the cacao industry:

Many factors, not just climate change, affect the cacao industry: droughts, floods, infestation, demand, and evapotranspiration. Rising temperatures alone will not impact cacao production, evapotranspiration (loss of moisture because of the high temperature) does. With the higher temperatures expected by the year 2050 precipitation/rainfall isn’t a guarantee. Brazil was once ranked second as the largest cacao producer, today they rank sixth. The decline in cacao production is due to the fungus that causes witch’s broom. In order for a cacao farmer to have a successful crop, trees have to be disease resistant. Hershey’s and Mars, Inc. have already classified the cacao genome which could improve the resiliency of cacao trees.

The Rainforest Alliance is a non-governmental organization/NGO that assists farmers with sustainable lifestyles. Its mission is to work with the smallholder cacao farmers to help with these issues. Some cacao farmers have already taken the suggestions to switch to alternative crops, lucrative ones such as rubber and/or palm oil. What if all farmers in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana switched at the same pace? The world could face the possibility of a million ton cacao shortage by 2020, this according to The Earth Security Group, a sustainability consulting firm registered in the United Kingdom.

Global demand for chocolate is another factor because of their interest in confectionery. The chocolate market has been trending towards higher prices over the last 10 years with the market increasing by 13% between 2010-2015, farmers’ share has decreased during this time. It is estimated that by the year 2030, chocolate will be a delicacy, like caviar, and your average Joe, or Jane, won’t be able to purchase it. Heavy marketing leads to heavy demand. How do we equate the 13% to a dollar value, try $100 billion, according to Euromonitor, a market research firm.

Unfortunately, cacao trees cannot keep up with the rapid demands of consumers, it takes three to five years at best to produce cacao beans, the end result of this long, strenuous process is chocolate. The amount we consume (11+ pounds of chocolate is consumed annually by individuals in Europe and the United States) far outweighs the amount that is produced, leading to a shortage of chocolate. In the news lately, Necco, the company that manufactures Necco Wafers, Sky Bar, Mary Jane, and Sweethearts is filing for bankruptcy. If we are heading towards chocolate becoming a delicacy I must warn you: start hoarding all of your candy because it will cost you a pretty penny in the not-so-distant future. Call me Ms. Gloomanddoom, but remember the recent avocado crisis in Mexico, we may have a chocolate crisis next.

Global warming and climate change have been topics widely discussed for years. In a recent TED Talk with Mark Bittman, he commented that global warming is real and dangerous and reminds us that we should stop eating things thoughtlessly. This includes chocolate. Greenhouse gas, methane gas, water shortages, oh my!

How’d we get here? Well, it all started with British commodities: sugar, tea, and tobacco. These were popular due to the transatlantic movement, transporting these commodities by African slaves. Chocolate began in Mesoamerica and dates back to 350 BC. It was consumed as a hot beverage served in ghourds and as time progressed in fancy porcelain cups by the most affluent during the Baroque Age. The British didn’t like the bitter taste of the chocolate so they re-created the taste by adding sugar to it. 

Early entrepreneurs:

I would have loved to interview the early entrepreneurs like Dorothy Jones who was granted a license to operate a coffee house in Boston in 1670. Women wouldn’t be caught dead in a coffee house and she got a license. Slay girl slay. Despite my research at the Massachusetts Historical Society I was not able to locate the actual license or the coffee house, but I did find one reference to it in the Record Commissioners City of Boston records from 1660 to1701. It may be that Dorothy Jones was a vendor and did not actually have a storefront. If there was a storefront, I would have to guess that it was located in the area of what’s now known as Downtown Crossing in Boston. Newspaper Row was in that area during 1670 and it makes sense that the coffee house would be close by. To be continued.

Dorothy Jones, 1670


The role of chocolate:

Liquid consumption of chocolate morphed into candy consumption and as time went on the global market consumed it. Pun intended. Chocolate consumes us and plays a variety of roles in our lives. Part of my research included interviews with three females, all of whom are my closest friends spanning four decades, who gave me permission to share their stories. Names have been changed. Three questions were asked of each woman: what is their relationship with chocolate, what role it played in their life, and how chocolate’s significance has changed or stayed the same over time. Analysis of the social and historical issues were revealed during these interviews. 

I begin my interview with Pepper, 40-something. We’ve been friends for 15 years, so when she said “you’ll be disappointed, I don’t have a relationship with chocolate, at all. I can take it or leave it”. I thought, um what? Was I dreaming that she ate the special occasion, Halloween,Valentine’s Day, Christmas, because-it’s-Friday chocolate our coworkers brought in and placed in that fancy bowl they bought at the dollar store. When I asked her to elaborate on her statement I mentioned the documented ties to slavery, child labor and human trafficking, and the YouTube video The Dark Side of Chocolate, she said she “had no idea chocolate was involved in so much trauma and political unrest”.

Pepper went on, “I do eat it, but I don’t crave it. I like it sometimes; hot chocolate, candy bars with other things mixed in, the very occasional Dove piece, alone, but only when it happens to be laying there… I just don’t crave it. If I have any cravings, it would be the occasional hot chocolate, but only because it comforts me and makes me feel like autumn and of course, I am addicted to mochas which are chocolate and coffee together. So in that, I suppose it does play a role. But I still drink regular coffee too”.

“I always think the cultural references to chocolate/women/weakness/food orgasm are ridiculous. I’ve always thought to myself what’s the big deal, it’s just chocolate. It’s probably because I hate being stereotyped and the chocolate/women/weakness/food orgasm stereotype that society and commercials seem to paint just piss me off because I like to feel like I’m more dimensional than that. It makes women seem weak and easy to manipulate and shallow”.

“If you’re telling me that the chocolate trade perpetuates and supports slavery then I’m quitting it. My husband says I now have chocolate angst, or chocolate rage”.


I was curious as to why Pepper immediately responded with “craving” when I asked about chocolate. I love how she mentioned hot chocolate and frothy drinks and her addiction to mochas. There’s some truth to why we love frothy drinks. In ancient times, drinks were put in vessels and buried with loved ones who have since passed on. It was said that the froth went with the deceased to the afterlife.

Frothy cacao drink

Culture also played a role in Pepper’s response when she said she ate chocolate “alone”, as did her anger when she felt the stereotype which reminded me of the article I read by Kristy Leissle, Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements. Ghanaian women were photographed, not your typical glamour-shot, but were depicted as strong powerful business leaders, not in binary terms. These pictures reflect the necessary change in the narrative. Viewers are able to look beyond the exploitative market and view these women as they should be viewed, strong and powerful leaders in a transnational community. Many of the ads you see in the United States show women eating chocolate, alone, sinfully displayed like in the movie Chocolat, and almost always with some sort of sexual undertone throughout the ad. The ancient Aztecs believed chocolate was an aphrodisiac, science wasn’t quite onboard with that theory. Advertisers still link romance with chocolate.

Key words: comfort, craving, frothy drinks, stereotypes

My second interview was with Sunny, 60-something. Sunny said that she “definitely has had a relationship with chocolate throughout her childhood and adulthood and as a mom. Chocolate has been present in celebratory events, holidays & vacations. For holidays, chocolate snowmen & coins were placed in her children’s Christmas stockings, at Easter, chocolate eggs & bunnies were found on Easter egg hunts, and on Valentine’s Day chocolate hearts were given out as gifts. I have such happy Halloween memories as a kid trading candy bars” Sunny said with a beaming smile; kid’s birthday gift bags full of candy, & candy store visits while on vacation. And Hershey kisses, just because! Chocolate is present at happy events, there to cheer up, decrease stress and soothe a foul mood. At this point in my life I have less consumption/purchase of chocolate, children have grown and they are more health conscious and do not consume. I currently eat it more out of stress reduction and comfort while at work”.

“In chatting, this makes me take pause reflecting on the important role chocolate has played in my life. I think of my all-time favorite candy bar….”Sky Bar”! Sadly, I hadn’t chatted with Sunny about the recent Necco bankruptcy. She better stock up on Sky Bars or they will be a literal memory.

For Sunny, chocolate was a staple in her life until recently. It explains why she can’t pass up a Hershey’s Kiss. These sweet kisses are known as a “cradle-to-grave brand loyalty”. Once you consume them you pretty much do so for your entire life. Great marketing, for a kiss that contains only 11% cacao.

Sunny mentioned that chocolate was used a reward for good behavior with her children. More importantly she eats it when stressed and that it provides her comfort. Sunny has fond memories of chocolate, her visits to candy shops while on vacation and the role candy plays during holidays. I could see the melancholy in her eyes when she described her favorite candy bar. I think the melancholy was also related to her children growing up and that the fun role of chocolate was outweighed by her stressful days at work. Chocolate has been known to have therapeutic properties dating back to ancient times.

Key words: comfort, childhood, vacations, holidays

Raspberry Rose, 20-something was my last interview. “So I’ve never been a HUGE chocolate person. I’ve always preferred sweet candy over chocolate, but I definitely indulge when I’m craving it! Chocolate tends to play the role of a comfort food…there’s always that time of the month where all I want is some chocolate caramels and a glass of wine 🙂 it also has some memories tied to it – for example I remember when I was growing up, my mom and I loved to eat 3 Musketeers bars and none of my friends liked those so on Halloween I would take them from all my friends to give to my mom 🙂 My relationship with chocolate has stayed the same!  I definitely eat less of it than I did when I was younger, but that’s the only change”!

My thoughts after chatting with Raspberry Rose was wow, she too used the words craving and comfort and had similar feelings and fond memories of chocolate while growing up.

Key words: craving, comfort, childhood memories, halloween

Statistically, women do crave chocolate more than men. While it’s not the chocolate per se, it’s the ingredients like magnesium and antioxidants you may be lacking that make you crave it. The calming qualities that come from consuming chocolate is because of the increased levels of serotonin #instanthappiness. Culture plays a factor in cravings, it’s a trend here in the United States and frequently talked about that women crave chocolate, one major reason chocolate companies target women.

According to the article Coffee, Tea, Chocolate, and the Brain by Ashtrid Nehlig, there was one chapter by David Benton devoted to The Biology and Psychology of Chocolate Craving. While many people associate themselves with being a chocaholic, there is no scientific evidence to show that chocolate is addictive. It has “drug-like” qualities though and can cheer you up if you’re sad or had a bad day at the office.

All of my friends were shocked that chocolate had ties to slavery, child labor, and human trafficking and were unaware of the cacao process. I am happy to report that  they are very interested in learning more. I  realized that I  need to spread the word about the cacao industry and this inspired me to create a podcast which should be on iTunes very soon. It’s about my three favs, Coffee, Chocolate & Cats.

Key words correlate with the research that I found. I do hope that one day the cacao farmers are paid at a more equitable rate, that we help the environment and know more about the bean to bar process, and that we can enjoy our chocolate, complicit-free.

Works cited

Kristy Leissle (2012): Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements, Journal of African Cultural Studies, 24:2, 121-139

Emma Robertson (2009): Chocolate, women and empire. A social and cultural history. Manchester University Press, Manchester and New York.

Norton, M. “Tasting Empire: Chocolate and the European Internalization of Mesoamerican Aesthetics.” The American Historical Review, vol. 111, no. 3, 2006, pp. 660–691., doi:10.1086/ahr.111.3.660.

Hudson, Bradford. “The Cradle of American Hospitality » Boston Hospitality Review | Blog Archive | Boston University.” Boston Hospitality Review RSS, 2012, www.bu.edu/bhr/2012/09/01/the-cradle-of-american-hospitality/

Bittman, Mark. “What’s Wrong with What We Eat.” TED: Ideas Worth Spreading, Dec. 2007, www.ted.com/talks/mark_bittman_on_what_s_wrong_with_what_we_eat.

“Scientists Say Climate Change May Make Chocolate Extinct By 2050.” YouTube, 2 Jan. 2018, youtu.be/sm9kQdKOnKE.

City of Boston (1881). A Report of the Record Commissioners of the

City of Boston, Containing the Boston Records from 1660 to 1701.

Boston: Rockwell and Churchill, Page 58

(Mass.)., Boston. “A Report of the Record Commissioners of the City of Boston Containing the Boston Records from 1660 to 1701.” HathiTrust, 2018, babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=bc.ark%3A%2F13960%2Ft3514s13f%3Bview.

Nehlig, Astrid. Coffee, Tea, Chocolate, and the Brain. CRC Press, 2004.

“Challenges.” Challenges | World Cocoa Foundation, 2018, http://www.worldcocoafoundation.org/about-cocoa/challenges/.

CNBC’s Katy Barnato and Luke Graham. “Future of the Chocolate Industry Looks Sticky.” CNBC, CNBC, 24 Mar. 2016, http://www.cnbc.com/2016/03/24/future-of-the-chocolate-industry-looks-sticky.html.

“Chocolate Makers Warn That the World Is Running out of Chocolate.” Fox News, FOX News Network, 17 Nov. 2014, http://www.foxnews.com/food-drink/2014/11/17/chocolate-makers-warn-that-world-is-running-out-chocolate.html.

“Cocoa Bean Production” , Cargill, 2018, http://www.cargill.com/sustainability/cocoa/the-changing-world-of-cocoa

“The Dark Side of Chocolate – Child Slavery.” The Dark Side of Chocolate – Child Slavery, Brethen Voices, 2012, youtu.be/p8j2l-3TxTg.


Moments: Sexualized only for an Elite Few or to be Enjoyed by All?

Long a symbol of wealth, prestige, and power, in contemporary European (and now in North American cultures as well), chocolate is also associated with “romantic love, personal indulgence, and festive occasions.” (Leissle, 131)

This play on personal indulgence has led modern day marketers to not only continue to target the elite, but more specifically to women, sexualizing them by creating a narrative that they can be aroused and sinfully satisfied through the act of eating chocolate.

Many foods are believed to have aphrodisiac qualities, including chocolate (e.g. asparagus, almonds, avocados, bananas, basil, arugula, garlic, eggs, figs, oysters, chili peppers, honey, wine, pomegranates). (Martin, “Chocolate expansion”)

Dove Chocolate, a subsidiary of MARS (https://www.dovechocolate.com/aboutdove), has perpetuated this stereotype through a series of advertisements for their new chocolate with almonds. The message delivered through the campaign (print and video) is that only Dove can provide a chocolate so pure and silky.  Its visuals, taglines, and representation tell a story that focuses on sensations and indulgent “moments” where true joy seems to live, but only for the exclusive, privileged few.

Dove Commercial_Senses


Dove’s Original Print

Blog Post 3_Dove Ad

Dove’s original print invites the viewer to “nourish” one’s soul through the saturation of one’s senses.  This is shown as a guilty pleasure.  An attractive woman with flawless skin is seen up-close, enveloped in silky rich fabric.  Caught up in the bliss of her “moment,” she appears to be perfectly at ease, naked, a glow in her cheeks, bedroom eyes, hair blowing in an unseen breeze as she rests amid the silk with a secretive smile.  This smile seems to imply something intimate, nearly post-coital, as if the viewer has caught a glimpse of her in this luxurious moment; as if she is basking in the delight of a chocolate-induced orgasm.

Chocolate advertisements create these moments, selling the notion that, “women become irrational, narcissistic, or excessively aroused due to chocolate.” (Martin, “Race”)

Dove’s Revised Advertisement

Blog Post 3_Dove Ad_Revised

Dove’s revised advertisement also focuses on cherished, magical moments, but instead of the erotic or exclusive, they are moments, alone or shared, that celebrate life’s milestones – monumental or mundane.

The new print focuses on strength and challenging oneself (as seen in the woman rock climbing), unity (a family enjoying an afternoon outdoors), joy (friends jumping on the beach), support and teamwork (a game of wheelchair basketball), firsts (teaching a child to fish), celebration (a group of elderly friends dancing), romantic love (a couple holding a heart), and health (a family sitting down to share a balanced meal). Inspirational natural beauty is also included with the sun setting over a lake and then rising again. The new print encourages viewers to “nourish” their souls and “saturate” their senses through beautiful moments for all.

In sum, chocolate is not a sexualized joy or moment for an elite few, but a food and experience to be enjoyed by all.


Works Cited

Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. Third Edition. Thames & Hudson Ltd: London, 2013. Print.

Martin, Carla D. “Chocolate expansion.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 10 Feb. 2016. Class Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 30 Mar. 2016. Class Lecture.

Leissle, Kristy. 2012. “Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 24 (2): 121-139. Class Reading.

http://carlyjaneproductions.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/17.DoveAds_-Michael-Thompson.jpg; Carly Jane. 17 September 2014. Web. 7 Apr. 2016

https://dovechocolate.com; Dove Chocolate commercial – Senses; May 6, 2013. Web. 7 Apr. 2016

https://youtube.com/watch?v=SwPwQ4S4op8&index=1&list=RDSwPwQ4S4op8&nohtml5=False; Dove Chocolate commercial – Senses; May 6, 2013. Web. 7 Apr. 2016


Race and Gender Stereotypes in Advertisements


Chocolate and advertisements often go hand in hand. Since its discovery by the Europeans, the popularity of chocolate rose in the 1600s, and it do so through the use of advertisement. Early advertisements began as word of mouth, but over the years it has progressed into what we now know as modern Ads: videos, photos, drawings. Along with progression, came a slew of negative stereotypes that were consistently portrayed for the sake of marketing certain goods. Of the many representations shown through images and videos, the two that will be discussed, is the use of race and gender in Ads. Time and time again, the respect for the history of chocolate and people has been disregarded for the sake of promoting a product.


Chocolate is often used as a synonym for darker skin. This is portrayed consistently in the media whether it is though words or imagery. In this Thai Ad, a new charcoal donut is being advertised. A bite is take out of the donut, which presumably turns the woman “black”. This literal representation is seen in the woman painted in black—to depict “charcoal”, while her pink lips stand out against her face. Dunkin Donuts has received much criticism over the lack of racial sensitivity in the Ad. The chocolate donut could have been marketed in other ways without resorting to race. Tactics such as this undermines  the history and struggle of a group of our population in order to sell products.

A woman’s face turns black, after taking a bite out of a charcoal donut.


As seen in both ads, females are often depicted as the representation for chocolates and sweets. Females are stereotyped into roles of femininity and sexuality in order to represent the object at hand. It often becomes hard to tell whether it’s the product or sex that is being sold, as the two are very entwined. As the image below shows, Cadbury is being compared to a female, and not just any female, but the supermodel Naomi Campbell. Her name brings to mind, images of being a diva, sassy, tall, slender, and beautiful. Focus is paid to the physical attributes that are deemed as the ideal. These physical features are used to convey confidence, sassiness, allure and sexuality. This theme is repeated in countless advertisements where females are seen laying on a bed, or in various sexual poses. It’s as if, any female that doesn’t fit the mold of the stereotypical sexual woman, chocolate just wouldn’t taste as good.

An Ad comparing an new Cadbury product to the model Naomi Campbell, who is of African descent

Original Ad

More focus need to be paid on making advertisements inclusive. Breaking free of stereotypes will allow the advertised message to reach a greater array of audiences who do not fit gender and racial molds. The focus should always be on the product more so than the people. Advertisements should aim to remove any ambiguity as to what is being sold and any stereotypes that are being subliminally reinforced. The original ad depicts an image of chocolate of various color and shapes, with the message   of celebrating all colors and shapes. The message is in direct response to the images above, where the mainstream links chocolate exclusively to dark skinned and African people. This ad tries to break free of socially constructed images of the “ideal women”—tall and skinny—which do not always depict the everyday norm. Above all, the advertisement focuses solely on the product, leaving no ambiguity as to what is being sold and the audience that is being targeted—everyone.

An Inclusive Ad that aims to focus just on the product and to celebrate differences.

Although this original Ad aims to deconstruct stereotypes, its focus may be too narrow. The slogan, “..in every shade and size”, responds only to the racial and body image portrayal of females. Male audiences, along with children and elder people may be marginalized. This shows how easy it is to leave out sections of the consumer population, wether it is intentional or not. It also shows how important it is to be inclusive of all people. Advertisements should direct their efforts in embracing and celebrating differences, not using it to reinforce centuries old ideal. Over time, Ads should completely move away from depicting chocolate to race and gender all together. The sole reason for candy should be for the sake of taste and satisfaction.



 Logan, Ruth. “Dunkin’ Donuts Apologizes For ‘Racist’ Blackface Ad.” News One Dunkin Donuts Apologizes For Racist BlackfaceAd Comments. NEWSONE, Sept. 2013. Web. 08 Apr. 2016. 
 Wade, Lisa. “On Cadbury, Naomi Campbell, and Colorblindness – Sociological Images.” Sociological Images On Cadbury Naomi Campbell and Colorblindness Comments. The Society Pages, June 2011. Web. 08 Apr. 2016. 

Lady Godiva, Naked


empowerment and objectification

For ninety years, Godiva Chocolatier has struggled to strike a balance between empowering women and objectifying them. Godiva was named after the legendary Lady Godiva, whose story, though set just after the turn of the 11th century, exemplifies the tension between female empowerment and objectification that we see in advertising in 2016.

Godiva Chocolatier Logo
[1] Even today, the image of Lady Godiva – eternally naked – appears on every box of Godiva chocolate.
Lady Godiva is generally remembered far better for her titillating nudity than for the circumstances that preceded her naked horseback ride. As the story goes, she argued with her husband (Lord Godiva, presumably) over his tax policy, which was hurting the people in their village. He agreed to change his policies if she rode naked through the village on horseback (French). According to the story, she took him at his word and rode naked through the town, and he changed his tax policy, and in theory everyone lived happily ever after (French).

Whether the story is true or not, it poses a difficult question regarding objectification. Lady Godiva took a bold action to stand up for the people of her village, but she was coerced into it by a male partner who did not take her opinions seriously. She chose her nudity, and yet it was not her choice at all. Is she an example of a woman taking her sexuality into her own hands, and using it to empower herself, or an example of a woman forced to expose herself as the lesser of two evils?

The question of female agency in sexualized media can be difficult to disentangle. Certainly female sexuality – and indeed nudity – in and of itself is not a problem. The problem arises when women are sexualized by others, for the benefit of others, and to the discomfort or even harm of the woman.

godiva ads, past and present

Godiva has historically produced advertisements that align with stereotypes, particularly the trope of the woman who is aroused by chocolate (Martin). Their recent DIVA advertising campaign features a series of women with dark eye makeup and lidded eyes, tousled hair, and clothing that appears to be slipping off. In the image below, the placement of the woman’s hands draw attention to her hair and her low neckline, and her horizontal position implies an arousal of something more than taste.


GoDIVA Joie de Diva
[2] The ‘woman aroused by chocolate’ appears frequently in chocolate advertising.

In an interview with AdWeek to herald Godiva’s 90th anniversary, head of marketing Michelle Chin offered that Godiva is looking to shift their target demographic to reach a younger consumer. “For us, what’s most important is pushing the emotional connection that consumers have with the brand,” Chin said. “Godiva means a lot of different things to people, but it really comes down to one thing—sparking joy and delight in consumers (Nudd)”. If their current marketing strategy can be successful at sparking joy and delight in that younger target demographic, they may be able to make this shift quite easily. If their advertisements are missing the mark, though, there may be more work for Godiva to do.

finally rewarded: a close read

The ad below is a still image of a woman in her late twenties or early thirties, leaning on a countertop, lifting a Godiva truffle from a gold box on the counter to her mouth. Behind her, out of focus, several men and at least one woman are standing or sitting, some drinking from glasses, with platters of food between them. This image does not immediately appear to be overly sexual; the woman’s shirt is high-necked, and she is leaning over the counter in a realistic, non-exhibitory pose. A gold panel at the right side of the image serves multiple functions: it reminds the viewer of the gold color of Godiva’s signature chocolate boxes, it generates an association between the ad and a marker of luxury, and it creates a space for text to be easily superimposed on the image.

[3] The advertisement in question.
Yet several aspects of her physical appearance match onto features that stereotypically mark a woman as a sex object: her lips are slightly parted; her eyes are closed, or at least heavily lidded; her hair is tousled and shiny; her skin looks smooth and golden. Her shirt folds in a way that draws attention to her chest and collarbones. In the language of print advertising, her body language is code for arousal – and in this ad, she is clearly being aroused by the chocolate. But this is fairly typical of chocolate ads.

A more interesting feature of her pose is her privacy from the rest of the party. The text accompanying the image indicates that she was the one to plan the party, yet she has withdrawn from it to eat this chocolate. She appears to be celebrating her successful party with a private reward: she is not being celebrated by anyone else, including and especially her male guests, blurry and silent at the back of the frame. The ad also doesn’t focus on any pleasure stemming from her successful party or from a feeling that the work she put into it was worthwhile. Her only pleasure comes from the chocolate.

The chocolate, then, is clearly a private pleasure. Women are frequently depicted in media eating chocolate “in various states of sensual arousal” and frequently alone, sneaking the chocolate “as a guilty pleasure or consolation prize” (Martin). Two things complicate this trope. First, the comparison of chocolate-eating pleasure to sexual orgasmic pleasure leaves the woman merely the object of some pleasuring force (chocolate). If the experience of eating chocolate is sensually arousing, then watching the woman in the advertisement eat chocolate is a form of accepted voyeurism, with all the problematic implications that brings.

Second, the concept of food being used in secret reward behavior is deeply connected to troubled eating patterns. Public schools have been trying to ban food as an in-school reward for good behavior for years; several studies have shown that teaching people that food is a reward means they crave it far more, and are at much higher risk for obesity (Healy). Women, in particular, are taught to conceal their eating habits from a young age, or told that men find it unattractive when women eat in public. The instinct to hide food and snacking behaviors, especially on unhealthy foods – like chocolate – can be an early indicator of eating disorders (Rainey). Encouraging the women who see this ad to mimic that behavior is likely to go poorly.

redesigning for a new demographic

Godiva’s head of marketing wants the main associations consumers make with Godiva to be joy and delight. The ad above primarily transmits a message of pleasure, and mostly sexual pleasure. To facilitate a shift toward less-sexual joy, and to broaden the ad campaign’s appeal to a wider audience, a redesign of the above print ad uses nearly the same framing and phrasing but incorporates a different woman and a different scene.


Finally Rewarded
A redesigned ad for Godiva’s new campaign.

In the redesigned ad, the phrase “Weeks AND WEEKS of planning” refers not to planning a party, but to Nicola Adams’ training and preparation for the 2012 London Olympics competition in boxing. Her preparation was presumably physically and emotionally taxing, and she is being rewarded with both a gold medal and a Godiva chocolate bar. This resolves several problematic aspects of the original ad.

Nicola is being rewarded not only with chocolate, but also with a gold medal. She is being celebrated for her success and performance, and her joy appears to stem from her abilities as well as from her chocolate-bar. The bright lights on her, compared to the dark background, also indicate that she is being lit or perhaps even photographed in front of a crowd of on-lookers. The public nature of the ad removes the problematic food-hiding behavior from the first ad.

From the Olympic medal around her neck, we are able to infer that she is being celebrated for her physical prowess. The gold stripe at the right side of the image is now more strongly associated with the gold medal – a symbol of overwhelming ability and success – than it is with luxury or classism.

Finally, the ad does not cast Nicola as a sex object. Her smile reaches her eyes; her hair is up, perhaps for comfort or ease of movement or perhaps just because she likes to wear it that way; she is wearing athletic clothing, and little or no makeup to accentuate her lips or darken her eyes.

suggestions for godiva

This redesigned advertisement is far from a solution to the stereotyped and sexualized images prevalent in chocolate advertisements and in all media today. By revising ad campaigns to erase stereotypes of sexism and classism and mental health (and we haven’t even discussed the racial undertones prevalent in chocolate imagery), Godiva can take a step toward reaching their target demographic with a message of delight and of joy.

works cited

French, Katherine. 1992. “The legend of Lady Godiva and the image of the female body.” Journal of Medieval History 18 (1): 3-19.

Healy, Melissa. 2014. “When food’s the reward, obese women’s judgment fails them.” Los Angeles Times, 17 July 2014. Web. 8 Apr. 2016.

Martin, Carla D. “Women Alone with Chocolate in TV Commercials.” Bittersweet Notes. WordPress, 7 June 2012. Web. 8 Apr. 2016.

Nudd, Tim. 2016. “At 90, Godiva Proudly Looks Back as It Charts a Path Forward: The Belgian chocolatier has a lauded history but needs to court younger buyers.” AdWeek. 31 Mar. 2016. Web. 8 Apr. 2016.

Puhl, R.M. and Schwartz, M.B. 2003. “If you are good you can have a cookie: How memories of childhood food rules link to adult eating behaviors.” Eating Behaviors 4 (3): 283-93.

Rainey, Sarah. 2015. “Ever hidden food, or secretly disposed of wrappers? Then you need to read this.” The Telegraph. 14 Jan 2015. Web. 8 Apr. 2016.



[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godiva_Chocolatier#/media/File:Godiva_Chocolatier_Logo.svg

[2] https://chocolateclass.files.wordpress.com/2016/04/a0be6-govida_singer_2011_01.jpg

[3] http://www.adforum.com/creative-work/ad/player/31554/n-a/godiva-chocolatier

images used for redesigned ad

[4] http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/boxing/olympics-2012-nicola-adams-wins-1244176

[5] https://community.imgur.com/t/favorite-chocolate-bars/8015

Race and Cultural Insensitivity in Chocolate Advertising

It is impossible to speak on chocolate advertising, through the lens of race and cultural insensitivity without being over-loaded with one image or video after another, of companies pleading ignorance or using deception in their bid to gain more consumers and acquire “target markets”. It is pertinent for the discussion of this subject matter that I utilize a select few images to tell a Story of the constructed prejudices still proliferated today in the world of chocolate advertising. Advertising in the chocolate industry especially in the western world is ignorant of the social, economic and political conditions facing the chocolate products that are marketed to consumers. These advertisements are generated primarily for the purposes of consumerism.  History has been unkind in creating these stereotypes and what is now apparent is that chocolate industries have adopted these attributes to be used thematically in advertising as a means to widen consumer markets and increase sales, the use of racial and cultural insensitive has now become a tool used by certain chocolate companies to sell more ‘chocolate’.

belgian chocolate hands
Belgian ‘Chocolate Hands’

This picture, is of sweets popular in the Antwerp region of Belgium. “Antwerpse handjes in Dutch,  are associated primarily with the myth of the founding of the city, in which the hero Brabo slew the tyrannical giant Antigoon, cut off one of his hands, and threw it in the river” (Dean). Of course the origin of the chocolate hands has been falsely attributed to a mythological story. The Chocolate hands in truth originated from a more sinister series of events that occurred during Belgium’s occupation of Congo by King Leopold II. “ The Belgium forces overseeing the enslaved workers were tasked to meet a daily quota of rubber and ivory harvest, the workers who did not meet the required quota would have their hands severed as punishment” (Dean). A false attribution of this chocolate hands with a local myth, is used to create patriotism and to increase sales. A marketing tool that chocolate advertisers often utilize.

Kina Ad
Swedish Kina Chocolate

The Swedish Kina chocolate company advertisement shows how companies use cultural appropriation to suit their needs. The image features a rice krisp covered chocolate; an Asian woman with a hat is seen perched on top of the chocolate bar. This traditional hat is widely common in Asian countries, it is also common knowledge that people of Asian descent are attributed with rice. After much uproar, Kina went ahead and removed the face but left the hat, a trade mark of the Asian community that simply just is- is used to promote a stereotype.

Sunny chocolate

To push back against the use of race and culturally insensitive as an advertising tool, I have created an image that focuses just on the chocolate itself. Chocolate being consumed by something we all consider gender-less, the sun. An argument could be made that my advertisement has no “target market” and it does not promote sales in anyway. My answer to that, is why should it? Chocolate sells itself, people are drawn to the taste. If chocolate is truly for the young and old, black and white, man and woman, why is a “target market” needed. Why is it that chocolate can’t be advertised to all on the same platform and everyone be allowed to choose without the power of persuasion. It could also be said that my advertisement lacks persuasion, I would refute  with the assertion that persuasion when coupled with stereotypes and prejudice leads to vilification. As chocolate has been deemed to be sinful and even a subject of oppression- in reference to the disparities in Cacao industry.

To better understand the damages perpetuated by chocolate advertising, one should take a closer look at the Critical Race Theory introduced by Professor Martin in Lecture. The six basic tenets of race theory emphasizes certain points that enshroud the problems with race and cultural insensitivity today. 1) Racism is ordinary- these stereotypes are enforced by human beings and only we can change them. 2) Interest convergence- the interest of the power players do not align with an egalitarian initiative. 3) Social construction- stereotypes are used as a tool to promote Dwarnist ideas- some people have to be at the bottom of the food chain while others are on top. 4) Differential Racialization- Different groups are profiled based on what is best suited at the time. Intersectionality and anti- essentialism- No prejudice is above or under the other and one can experience all in a particular situation. For instance, in the Cadbury Ad calling out Naomi Campbell, Not only was she profiled as having a stubborn and unyielding attitude like most black women are that she has to be instructed to “move over”, she is also called out as a “Diva”, a negative image that strong and independent women who know what they want are often associated with.

Naomi Campbell cardbury
Cadbury- Naomi Campbell Ad

6) Unique Voice of Color- People who have experienced prejudice are better at shining light on their plight. Integrating stereotypes in advertisements can be positive when it is used to create awareness or for positive campaigns against prejudice. It should never be used as an advertising tool to promote consumerism.

The Chocolate industry has had damaging effects in the use of “target market” ideology to increase sales. These stereotypes are often times given a pass because people are unaware of them or choose to be undisturbed by them. To condone the stereotypes in chocolate advertising is furthering the damage history has already created and in this case, it is much more insidious because it can go unrecognized or even worse, be tolerated as the norm.

Works Cited

Scholarly Sources:

Dean, Caroline. Chocolates as Cultural Blind Spots: Responding to “Civilization”. 12 February 2013. 5 April 2016. <http://sites.northwestern.edu/akih/2013/02/21/chocolates-as-cultural-blind-spots-responding-to-civilization/&gt;.

Martin, Carla. “Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Class in Chocolate Advertisements.” Chocolate Class. Byerly Hall, Cambridge. 30 March 2016. Lecture

Multimedia Sources:

Meyer, Norma. River cruise celebrates ‘tulip time’. 21 August 2015. 5 April 2016. <http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2015/aug/21/river-cruise-celebrates-tulip-time/&gt;.

Sweneyy, Mark. Cadbury apologizes to Naomi Campbell over ‘racist’ ad . 3 June 2011. 5 April 2016. <http://www.theguardian.com/media/2011/jun/03/cadbury-naomi-campbell-ad&gt;.

Waterfield, Bruno. Nordic confectionery giant redesigns ‘racist’ logo. 21 September 2011. 5 April 2016. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/foodanddrinknews/8778820/Nordic-confectionary-giant-redesigns-racist-logo.html&gt;.

Hershey’s Chocolate World: Using entertaining education as an agent of change

The extent to which the chocolate industry as evolved and diversified since the product’s rise as a consumer item is nearly too broad to measure; from the so-called “Big Chocolate” firms to small-scale chocolatiers, cacao harvest to processed confection, the methods of production and promotion have grown to span an incredibly varied amalgamation of marketing niches. To address this phenomenon in a reasonable amount of time while maintaining an adequate level of detail, it therefore becomes necessary to focus on a single purveyor of chocolate, so the Hershey Company and its practices in the contemporary market will be analyzed.

Since the demonization of candy first gained popularity with the rise of health-consciousness, a culture of rebranding has spread through the industry in attempts to maintain the confection’s viability as a consumer good (though not necessarily an item of food). Furthermore, more recent campaigns raising awareness for working conditions related to cacao harvesting and trade ethics have merited response to growing scrutiny of producers’ supply chains, while a combination of ethical concerns and proliferation of the “foodie” as a consumer has led to a rise in popularity of single-source chocolate. The Hershey Company and its sister organization, the Hershey Entertainment and Resorts Company, have used their Chocolate World property to tackle both of these objectives, recasting their chocolate as agents of entertainment, releasing new artisanal lines, and educating their consumer base all under one roof. As Hershey is already leading the pack with ethical trade in big chocolate, reporting “it will source 100 percent certified cocoa for its global chocolate product lines by 2020 and accelerate its programs to help eliminate child labor in the cocoa regions of West Africa,” there is more to be done to increase awareness outside of the industry, itself. (BusinessWire) The company’s combined approach to education-entertainment, along with the massive size of Hershey’s consumer base (and traffic through HERSHEYPARK) therefore puts the company in a unique position to influence the global mindfulness of chocolate eaters through their own promotional endeavors.

“Hershey’s” has become eponymous with “cheap and yummy.” Milton Hershey’s original goal – to provide a luxury item to the masses on an economical scale – was achieved in proverbial spades, and is responsible for his company’s transformation into its present-day empire. Describing the iconic Hershey’s Kiss as the antithesis to “craft chocolate,” Kristy Leissle says, “the twist of silver foil sends a familiar flavor message to the brain, while the wrapper imparts nothing substantial about the chocolate.” She goes on to state: “industrial chocolate makers… were more interested in selling the flavor of particular candy bars than bean lineage.” (22) Her observations are entirely accurate; nothing of the packaging of mass-produced candy shows linkage to the cacao’s actual roots, and the flavors of milk and sugar predominate the products’ palates. This trend is not, though, born of callous disregard for the cacao’s origin, but rather of practical motivations. Firstly, production on a scale such as Hershey’s leaves little time for the optimization of individual beans’ nuances, especially when so many additives would mask them anyways. Secondly, in the modern state of the industry, uniformity is paramount. According to Pam Williams and Jim Eber, the blending of beans and masking of their inherent uniqueness preserves the future viability of various product lines. Even in the craft chocolate industry, blending has become common practice, both to enhance flavor and to account for year-to-year variations. Drawing a parallel to wine-making practice, Williams and Eber offer, “since cacao… is subject to agricultural variation, sameness is often impossible unless a manufacturer can occasionally adjust for those variations… to achieve uniformity.” (175) Citing a specific anecdote given by Steve De Vries, who had asked a manufacturer to account for a difference in taste between his personal preparation of a single-origin product made by the company, was given the response: “if [the bean] is too good we have to push it down a little bit because if we put something out that is better than what we think we are able to do next ear, we will have to deal with complaints.” (qtd. in Williams and Eber, 176) The necessity of homogeneity is present for single-source chocolatiers and large-scale producers, alike, and stems from the popular conception of what chocolate is. Unlike wine or scotch, where variations in quality and flavor from season to season are embraced, the concept of “chocolate vintages” has not taken hold; consumers expect consistency, whether they are picking up a Kit Kat in the supermarket checkout line or searching for a particular brand of Ghanaian-sourced cacao, and see no reason why any two chocolate bars of the same brand and variety should taste different.

The issue at hand seems to be consumer education. Williams and Eber hold that “the solution begins by stepping back and remembering not only how disconnected most people are from where cacao is grown, but also how and where chocolate is made.” (147-8) Chocolatiers have recognized this need, and have been looking for ways to “get people to connect to, appreciate, and pay more for fine flavor chocolate in the future.” (Williams and Eber, 148) Chocolate World at HERSHEYPARK is The Hershey Company’s version of the solution. Located at the park’s entrance, Chocolate World is host to four main attractions that ostensibly educate interested parties in various aspect of the Milton Hershey legacy, tying in entertainment with the Hershey Company’s history, chocolate making, and chocolate tasting. The original attraction to this effect is the Great American Chocolate Tour – a ride taking park visitors through mockups of the chocolate factory, detailing the journey from bean to bar. Beginning with video clips detailing the harvest of cacao pods, this tour provides a glimpse of an aspect often entirely overlooked by sellers of chocolate; albeit a brief snapshot of the humans responsible for furnishing the Hershey Company with cocoa, awareness is provided to the spectator that the cacao-chocolate trade is, in fact, a global one.

This attraction is not without issue, though. As referenced in an earlier blogpost, recent changes to the ride have placed an increased emphasis on milk (and its health benefits) through the use of animatronic cows. Shifting the focus from chocolate to an ostensibly healthier ingredient, and shifting that even further to a whimsical jingle, is a part of the aforementioned rebranding of chocolate. However, a more troubling problem is present in the Chocolate Tour, relating to its portrayal of cacao sourcing. The representation of bean sourcing provided at the automated blending conveyer is a vast oversimplification. Posters citing “WEST AFRICA” and “ECUADOR” as the beans’ origins label the chutes depositing them onto a belt, complete with images depicting a building modeled after the iconic Osu Castle and a generic rainforest, respectively. (Figure 1) While the mere recognition of the cacao harvest goes a step further than other brands might, this generalization present on the ride has a very unfortunate result – stripping the identity from those responsible for providing the beans. Why is the company of Ecuador specified while Ghana or the Ivory Coast are lumped into West Africa? This phenomenon is a side effect of the European colonialist perspective towards its former African holdings, ripples of which still persist in contemporary marketing strategy. According to Leissle, locales that enable marketers to depict “an escapist fantasty, inviting the shopper to experience a place more wonderful and tropical than wherever they are,” are ideal candidates for package design. (25) Unfortunately for places like West Africa, where Ghana and the Ivory Coast are responsible for providing a massive amount of cacao to American producers, “images of Africa in the US media fall generally into one of two categories – Africa as ‘trouble,’ which includes poverty, conflict, debt, and HIV/AIDS, and Africa as ‘curiosity,’ which involves tribal people wearing colorful clothes and beads.” (Leissle, 26) The troublesome side is to be avoided at all cost if one wishes to sell a product, while the curious one is exploited in the form of stereotypes and generalizations, such as the aforementioned poster. This phenomenon is not limited to big chocolate, though, as West African cocoa is often eschewed by single-source purveyors for similar motivations. With Hershey’s position to educate such a large proportion of consumers, an effort to recognize the individuals responsible for cacao harvest outside of a stereotype could go a long way in promoting ethical chocolate consumption.

Figure 1: Bean blending conveyer in Hershey’s Great American Chocolate Tour

But education has not been limited to chocolate production at Chocolate World. Another attraction, Hershey’s Chocolate Tasting Adventure, strives to make consumers more conscious tasters. Beginning as an informal seminar, attendees are taught to appreciate terroir, listen for the distinctive crackle of higher percentages of cocoa, and use their entire mouth to taste, as previewed in this promotional video. It has since been made somewhat more appealing to children, featuring “Professors” T. VanderBean and Livingston McNib, but maintains a much more global appreciation of the chocolate industry. Being one of the only locations in which Hershey’s line of Cacao Reserve bars is promoted, it takes advantage of their single-source origins to and a lesson in terroir to discuss some of the locales displayed in Figure 2. Bill Nesto maintains that “the more precisely delineated a chocolate’s origin is, the more opportunity there is for a producer to express its identity.” (135) The two go hand in hand, so the more Hershey refines its single-source offerings, the more it will be able to shed light on previously neglected

Figure 2: Cacao Reserve selection, detailing the four origins of sourced beans.

Works Cited

  1. “Hershey to Source 100% Certified Cocoa by 2020.” BusinesWire. n.p. 3 October 2012. Web. 6 May 2015.
  2. Leissle, Kristy. “Invisible West Africa: The Politics of Single Origin Chocolate.” Gastronomica 13, 3 (2013): 22-31. Web.
  3. Nesto, William. “Discovering Terroir in the World of Chocolate.” Gastronomica 10, 1 (2010): 131-135. Web.
  4. Williams, Pam, and Eber, Jim. Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate. Vancouver: Wilmor Publishing Corporation, 2012. Print.

Chocolate as an Agent of Control for Gender Performance

Words like guilt, sin, temptation, and decadence are today more often associated with food than sex. This sort of language in connection with consumption is most visible in food advertising, especially for sweets, pastries, and especially chocolate. Western culture tends to assign morals to food: treats high in fat and sugar are ‘bad’, while low-processed and low-calorie foods are ‘good’. The assignment of morality to food is a highly gendered phenomenon. Modern western advertising also bombards women with the image of a ‘thin ideal’: a slender, usually white, woman who is sexually attractive and generally successful. In an effort to achieve the thin ideal, women fall into cycles of dieting and craving based on the assignment of morals to food. And yet, chocolate is a product so connected to women culturally that its consumption seems unavoidable. Chocolate is advertised as an inherent and inevitable function of the female diet, but meanwhile a woman must exhibit control over this expected consumption without becoming overweight or obese. Her ability to subvert this consumption paradox and act in all ways assigned to her sex by society, and more specifically advertising firms, reflects on her morality, values, and strength. Chocolate serves as an agent of gendered body performance.

To understand the connotations of chocolate in the female diet today, one must review the evolution of chocolate from a health product to a dietary indulgence. Until dietetics and nutrition separated from medicine as a field, chocolate, like most food, was considered to be a health product. In 1577, chocolate was believed by the Spanish to have antipyretic properties and act as an effective treatment to liver disease. In 1796, Lavedan called chocolate a “universal medicine,” which stimulated “a natural warmth and the heart” (Watson 20). Up to the 1970’s, sugar was touted as a natural energy stimulant and appetite suppressant, an extremely successful “forging of public opinion” by sugar companies (Taubes). In fact, sugar may be comparably addictive to narcotic drugs in inducing craving (Ahmed). Soon into the 1960’s and 70’s, sugar and fat became vilified as contributors to heart disease and obesity, as evidenced by 1977 senator McGovern’s published hearings on saturated fats. As the public began to fear obesity and associated health risks, attitudes towards foods high in sugar, fat, and salt became markedly negative. As a result, mass-produced chocolate’s high-sugar and high-fat composition “have earned it the title of a ‘forbidden food’” (Fletcher et al. 212). As a food connoted with health risk and weight gain, chocolate in excess has come to be viewed as a poor health choice for one’s self.

Despite chocolate’s poor reputation as a health food, it is not uncommon to see thin white women in marketing campaigns selling the sweet. As with any other product using women to sell to buyers, the presented women often appeal to the ‘thin ideal’ image. Thin women sell products because of sexual attractiveness perhaps, but also because female consumers may aspire to achieve the appearance and success of the woman pictured. This phenomenon is not a new one; Rowntree and Cadbury advertisements in the 1930’s created images of wealthy white women whose “superior tastes” would select their product above others (Robertson 26).

Black Magic, 1937 Advert
Black Magic, 1937 

In a 1937 Black Magic ad, a white woman sitting on a horse, the horse and her clothes indicators of class, is posed next to a box of chocolates. Images of high-class women are still present in advertising today, but indicators of wealth and success have evolved from just clothes and horses. Today an indicator of class in a woman is her thinness: wealthy women have the privilege to buy expensive, nutritious, organic foods to maintain a slender figure. A 2009 Godiva Chocolate print ad echoes the themes of the 1930’s chocolate companies as it pictures a thin and glamorous woman in a black dress eating

Godiva Chocolate, 2009
Godiva Chocolate, 2009

a single piece of chocolate. Even today, in viewing these chocolate advertisements “the non-Society female consumer may aspire to the romantic lifestyle of the leading character” (Robertson 27). Part of this “romantic lifestyle” includes a slender figure. Images like the Godiva ad seem to tell consumers, “glamorous and successful women eat our chocolate.” These women, however, apparently do not eat enough of the product to lose their class-indicative slender figure.

Thin women sell chocolate because society has a certain reaction to body image, and there exist certain connotations with societal construction of the female body. In fact, women may worry so much about the image of their own body that dieting, advertisements, and images of ‘bad’ foods induce negative feelings. Advertising for food tends not to include images of larger women. Perhaps certain markets promote the image of “normal” or “average” women, but these models are never too large. In fact, if a chocolate advertisement included images of a very overweight or obese woman, consumers would most likely not respond to this sort of marketing at all.  According to Germov and Williams, “the thin body has become a symbol of youth, beauty, vitality and health.The cult of slimness represents the social pressure to discipline the surface body where fat is a clear sign of a body out of control” (102). The image of an overweight woman carries with it a stigma of a lack of personal responsibility or lack of self-control. Associating chocolate with the negative societal stigma of being overweight would instill a fear in possible consumers of the product, and so companies choose thin women to avoid this connection. And yet, “‘slimming’ magazines perpetuate the problems by including photographs of the very items dieters are trying to avoid (Fletcher et al. 217). A study by Fletcher et al. shows that women who are dieting or have dieted in the past (the majority of western women) exhibited the great amounts of guilt after being confronted with visual images of chocolate. The study suggests that dietary restriction increases cravings for “forbidden foods”, which then in turn afflicts those having cravings with greater feelings of guilt, anxiety, and depression (2007). So in including exclusively thin women in their advertisements, companies promote an image of success and wealth, but also disassociate their product from large women and the fear of obesity because of societally constructed perceptions of female body morality. However, studies show that just images of the product itself, regardless of the woman next to it, may induce negative feelings in dieting women who are already entrenched in oppressive body culture.

Chocolate consumption is an act associated with being female, much like the act of dieting. As discussed, advertising often features women as primary consumers of chocolate, and many images presented show men giving chocolate to women. In fact, eating chocolate is presented as so natural to women that the female desire and craving for chocolate is assumed to be almost completely unavoidable. Because of this notion, chocolate is to be accommodated into a woman’s diet – a diet which is already assumed to be focused on losing weight. A 2014 online article for Elle, a women’s fashion and lifestyle magazine, claims “I Lost Weight on the Chocolate Diet.” The article describes a book by Dr. Will Clower encouraging women to eat dark chocolate before and after every meal to encourage fullness and smaller portions of other food. The author glibly expresses surprise at the thought of being able to eat chocolate and lose weight. To have both of these things seems to be the best thing that could happen to a woman. Women are so obsessed with chocolate, apparently, that their identities “may thus become subsumed by their consumption” (Robertson 34). Robertson describes how in vintage Dairy Box and Aero advertisements for chocolate products, the urge to eat chocolate is described as a natural female desire: “Joan’s passions for chocolates is reinterpreted as a ‘natural liking’…[these women] are so enamored with Dairy Box that men literally disappear” (33). The Aero adverts go so far as to entice women to give into their “urge to eat chocolate” because of a natural “deep physical reason…to be obeyed.” (35). According to advertising and mass media, women are simply unable to resist the temptations of chocolate and must instead somehow incorporate it into their pursuit of the thin ideal. This stereotype implies an inherent weakness of women, a lack of ability to exercise control, which can read even further into the expectations of women and their bodies.

The idea of behavior control as proper gender performance for women ties into the societal expectation that women must control their intake of chocolate to be valuable. Dieting is an extremely normalized phenomenon among women in the west, and “more women diet (that is, consciously modify their dietary intake for the purposes of weight loss) due to dissatisfaction with their body shape and size” (Germov and Williams 100). So rather than attributing dietary changes to health improvement, western women tend to prioritize physical appearance over health benefit. This is a natural reaction to the bombardment of media promoting the thin ideal as the most successful and attractive form of a woman. As mentioned, the Fletcher et al. study shows how dieting women associate food and images of food with emotions like guilt, anxiety, and depression. This reaction, in itself, is also a gendered one: a study by Wansink et al. found that significantly more women reported a feeling of guilt after eating chocolate than men did, and a study by Lafay et al. showed that men tend to associate positive feelings with craving, while women associate negative ones (Fletcher et al. 212). As it seems, women cannot escape food nor the negative emotions they associate with eating it. Since the rise of the American middle class, traditional expectations kept women at home preparing food for their families while their husbands worked to put that food on the table. In being so often surrounded by food, women “find themselves in a vicious circle with food perceived as a friend and enemy at one and the same time” (Germov and Williams 101). Feelings of shame and guilt around eating ‘forbidden foods’ like chocolate stem from a perception of what Fletcher et al. call Ego Depletion: “the notion that ‘active volition’, i.e. willpower, is a limited resource of strength” (212). If a woman cannot exhibit the strength to control her intake of chocolate and do her duties as a woman, she should feel guilty and ‘fat’, a word often more associated with shame than weight. Even though women are encouraged to eat chocolate because it comes so ‘naturally’ to them, they most often associate it with a failure of diet. Overconsumption is more than a risk of gaining weight, it is a defiance of proper womanhood.

Even advertising will incorporate chocolate’s associations with guilt and sin, albeit this is carefully done. In women’s health magazines such as Fitness, chocolate recipes are marketed as “guilt free” and “healthy,” often incorporating minimal amounts of chocolate into other foods in order to rid the connotation of candy consumption. To remove the guilt from chocolate, these recipes change its image. This is with the exception of small amounts of dark chocolate, which tends to be marketed as the only healthy way to consume pure chocolate products. In print ads, Green&Black’s “Ethically Sinful” image reminds its buyers of the chocolate company’s ethical trade sourcing.

Green&Black's, by Johnathan Mandell
Green&Black’s, by Johnathan Mandell

However, including the word ‘sinful,’ implies that the sin lies in eating the chocolate itself. This advertisement argues that because this chocolate bar is labeled as Fair Trade, its consumers are forgiven in their sin of eating chocolate at all. Tapping into female emotions of guilt and shame by labeling chocolate consumption as a sin seems hardly ethical.

The association of chocolate and sin as a gendered pairing seems to mislabel the actuality of the biblical sin of gluttony. Germov and Williams argue that gluttony as a sin “has historically been gendered, representing a form of female repression” (103). The biblical sin itself comes from ancient times, but continues to be reflected in the moral attitudes towards being corporeally large or overweight in today’s society. However, in its original description as a carnal sin, the problem of gluttony focuses on thoughts, intentions, and behaviors rather than appearances. Instead, the sin of gluttony marks a desire for consumption strong enough to hinder spirituality. However, today, “denying oneself food is seen as good in a woman, bad in a man…the current successful and ‘mature’ model of femininity submits to a life of self-denial in her body” (Wolf quoted in Germov and Williams 101). Deviating from the expectations of feminine presentation (slenderness, submission, attractiveness, etc) can now be associated with gluttony. A woman enjoying more than a bite or two of chocolate may easily be represented as gluttonous, especially if that woman is already overweight. Chocolate in the modern era is seen as a gluttonous temptation and indulgence particularly for women, because of its connotations as both irresistible and fattening.

Western advertising markets chocolate to women using images of the thin ideal, despite the societal message to women that chocolate will sabotage their pursuit of thinness. Women are trapped in a gendered cognitive dissonance of consumption. When women can’t resist their ingestion of chocolate because of assigned gender weakness, they must find ways to consume it without forgoing their always-ultimate goal of slimness, weight loss, and sexual attractiveness. Chocolate advertising is skewed by the pre-existing societal perceptions of appropriate female behavior, but remains a strong representation of how chocolate is imposed upon women as an agent of control. It is alleged women eat chocolate because they crave it “naturally”, and yet the natural bodily reaction of gaining weight in response to heavy chocolate consumption is unacceptable for the ideal woman. In fact, the combined vilification of chocolate as an unhealthy food and the reverence of it as a female necessity has a proven negative impact on the emotional health of dieting women. Chocolate has become a physical, emotional, and gendered entity to women who choose to consume it. Somehow, society has turned a mixture of cocoa, sugar, and milk into a marker of control, and a judgement upon how women should behave.

Works Cited

Ahmed, Serge H., Karine Guillem, and Youna Vandaele. “Sugar addiction: pushing the drug- sugar analogy to the limit.” Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care 16.4 (2013): 434-439.

Fletcher, Ben C., et al. “How visual images of chocolate affect the craving and guilt of female dieters.” Appetite 48.2 (2007): 211-217.

Germov, John, and Lauren Williams. “The epidemic of dieting women: the need for a sociological approach to food and nutrition.” Appetite 27.2 (1996): 97-108.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009.

Taubes, G., and C. K. Couzens. “Big sugar’s sweet little lies.” Mother Jones (2012).

Watson, Ronald Ross, Victor R. Preedy, and Sherma Zibadi. Chocolate in health and nutrition. London, UK: Humana Press, 2013.

Multimedia Sources

Black Magic: Black Magic, 1937. Reprinted in Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Robertson, Emma. p28.
Godiva: Godiva Chocolate, 2009. Reprinted in The New York Times.

Green&Black’s: Green&Black’s Out of Home Campaign. Jonathan Mandell Creative.

Elle Magazine: http://www.elle.com/beauty/health-fitness/advice/a12666/how-the-chocolate-diet-got-me-healthy/

Fitness Magazine: http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/recipes/desserts/guilt-free-ways-to-eat-chocolate/

From “Jezebel” to “Diva”: How Cadbury Plays Off The Evolution Of Negative Stereotypes Surrounding Black Women  

Cadbury’s May 2011 Ad Targeting Supermodel Naomi Campbell

Since the 19th century, African American women have been the victims of many harsh and untrue stereotypes surrounding their appearance and behavior. Unfortunately this still holds true even for today. In May 2011, Cadbury, a well known and successful United Kingdom (UK) chocolate manufacturer, decided to launch its campaign for its chocolate bar, Dairy Milk Bliss. This campaign proved a wrong move for Cadbury as it displayed overtly racist undertones, inciting anger from Naomi Campbell, the model who was targeted by the ad, and the international African American community. Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Bliss not only directly likened Campbell to chocolate but also perpetuated a negative Diva stereotype about African American women, unnecessarily adding to a long history of African American women being wrongly characterized and portrayed at their own expense for the profits of others. By promoting such hurtful stereotypes Cadbury not only further damaged the image of African American women across the globe, but also contributed to the psychological trauma of African American girls of today.

Typically depicted Jezebel

To understand the Diva stereotype, one must first understand the Jezebel, the stereotype from which Diva evolved. The Jezebel was the “young, exotic, promiscuous and over-sexed woman (Stephens, 2003).” She was primitive, attention seeking, and could not control her own sexual appetite (Stephens, 2003). The Jezebel only thrives on the attention of men, using her sexuality to gain her access to her material goods and needs. Light skin, long straight hair, curvaceous, and loose, the Jezebel was used to justify the rape of enslaved women by their masters due to their “insatiable appetites” and continuous “seduction of white men”; in reality these women were continuously abused by their masters, used to satisfy their sexual desires and economic need for more “slave babies (Stephens, 2003).”

Destiny's Child--A group according to Stephens et al, 2003 that has been promoted using the Diva stereotype
Destiny’s Child–A group according to Stephens et al, 2003 that has been promoted using the Diva stereotype

However, around the late 20th century the Diva stereotype broke out. Similar to the Jezebel, the Diva is light skin, long straight hair, and is traditionally pretty in a Eurocentric way (Stephens, 2003). She is considered a high maintenance woman with an attitude. She needs to be at the center of attention, and is incredibly appearance driven, spending tons of dollars and hours to keep up her clean, polished look (Stephens, 2003). Sexually, the Diva diverges from the Jezebel because although she is seductive, sultry, and at times immodest, she is never explicit or overt; she cultivates the image of being attractive yet unattainable through her smoldering looks, tight fitting clothing, and sassy walk (Stephen, 2003). Materialistically driven, the Diva is considered a woman who has made it and can afford to purchase her own goods. On the other hand, the Diva is also looking for a man who can “enhance what she already has” bringing a rise in income and status to her name (Stephens, 2003).

Supermodel Naomi Campbell
Supermodel Naomi Campbell

This is why with such a history behind the word Diva, Cadbury’s ad is 100% inappropriate. First, directly likening Naomi Campbell to chocolate is an insult as chocolate has many negative connotations such as dirty, impure, sinful, and exotic (Martin; Rosenthel et Vanderbeke, 2015). Cadbury cannot argue against this fact because out of thousands of models they chose to single out Campbell because of her race and because of her ability to fit the Diva stereotype. Light skin, long straight hair, and slim, Naomi physically fits the Diva mold. Because of her successful career as a model, she is seen as an African American woman who has “made it.” As a model, she is regarded as seductive and sultry, and is always put together. The materialist needs of the Diva (and essentially Naomi) are exaggerated by Cadbury as the Dairy Milk Bliss Bar is sitting in a sea of gems with a purple backdrop, suggesting luxury. The lines “Move over Naomi” and “I’m the world’s most pampered bar” adds insult to the wound as it continues the idea of Divas, specifically African American women, being rude, spoiled, and high maintenance.

The implication of Cadbury’s ad on young African American girls is also frightening. Currently, African American girls are one of the fastest growing groups contracting HIV and other STDs due to unsafe sexual practices (Davis et Tucker-Brown, 2013). In an attempt to understand the cause of this, researchers Dr. Davis and Dr. Tucker-Brown went about questioning African American female adolescents about potential causes for such sexual decisions. One topic was mainstream media’s affect. The adolescents felt that status for African Americans was tied into involvement in pop culture, specifically rap videos, where the women depicted were extremely sexualized and degraded. Because status for these girls is tied to luxury items and attention, many desire such status and are willing to do whatever it takes to get it, even if it requires degrading one’s body and self, promoting unsafe sexual practices, and having inaccurate portraits painted of one’s self. One of the girls, Peace, reported, “You get the bling [diamonds] when you are a video girl” noting “Everybody wants to wear Gucci or Prada and at our age how else are you going to have that kind of money? (Davis et Tucker-Brown, 2013)” Sabrina, another study participant, elaborated further stating “that girls her age just want to be known and have stuff (Davis et Tucker-Brown, 2013).” By perpetuating the Diva stereotype and the need for status and a sexual identity, Cadbury is further harming African American girls who already encounter such negative stereotypes in current mainstream media.


Thus, in an attempt to fix Cadbury’s ad our group created a new ad, removing all race analogies and Diva stereotypes from the article, changing it to reference Mr. Sandman and Dairy Milk Bliss’ superior dream inducing qualities. While we could make those changes, sadly some things could not be changed. For example, by using the color for royalty and fancy, elegant, cursive font, Cadbury is making a divisive statement about its company as a luxury brand, one that can only be afforded and should only be dreamt of by the upper classes. Therefore for future reference and success, our group recommends that Cadbury stop trying to create a divide between the classes and instead employ marketing techniques that attract people from all backgrounds, without it being at the expense of any marginalized community.

Works Cited

Davis, Sarita, and Aisha Tucker-Brown. “Effects of Black Sexual Stereotypes on Sexual Decision Making Among African American Women.” Journal of Pan African Studies 5.9 (2013): 111-28. Www.jpanaafrican.com. JPAS (Journal of Pan African Studies). Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <http://www.jpanafrican.com/docs/vol5no9/5.9Effects.pdf&gt;.

Knowles, Beyonce. Destiny’s Child Playlist. Digital image. http://www.beyonce.com/destinys-child-playlist-2/. 8 Oct. 2012. Web.

Naomi Campbell Calls Out Victoria Beckham About Racism on Runway. Digital image. Http://atlantablackstar.com/2013/10/30/naomi-campbell-calls-victoria-beckham-racism-runway/. Web.

Martin, Carla. “AAS 119x Lecture 16:Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements.” Harvard Emerson Hall, Cambridge. 30 Mar. 2015. Web. 30 Mar. 2015.

Rosenthal, Caroline, and Dirk Vanderbeke. “On the Cultural Politics of the Racialized Epidermis.” Probing the Skin: Cultural Representations of Our Contact Zone. Cambridge Scholars, 2015. 88. Print.

Stephens, Dionne. “FREAKS, GOLD DIGGERS, DIVAS, AND DYKES: THE SOCIOHISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF ADOLESCENT AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN’S SEXUAL SCRIPTS.” Sexuality and Culture 7.1 (2003): 3-49. Http://faculty.fiu.edu. Florida International University. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <http://faculty.fiu.edu/~stephens/documents/DStephens_FreaksGoldDiggers.pdf&gt;.

Sweney, Mark. Cadbury Apologises to Naomi Campbell over ‘racist’ Ad. Digital image. http://www.theguardian.com/media/2011/jun/03/cadbury-naomi-campbell-ad. 3 June 2011. Web.

“Advertisers are selling us something else besides consumer goods: they are selling us ourselves”

The evolution of chocolate production changed the way in which chocolate was available and advertised to the public. Historically, chocolate was known as a luxury item, only available to the elite, the rich, or those with connections to the trade. In the late 19th century, chocolate shifted from being provided in liquid form to a solid candy. As competition between chocolate confectioners increased, their outreach to attract customers shifted as well. The earliest known chocolate promotions were posters, sometimes detailed illustrations that took advantage of new advancements in lithography, graphic arts, and commercial advertising (Grivetti, p. 193).

chocolat ideal hot-chocolate

Members of the chocolate history group at the University of California, Davis spent two years searching and finding over 500 chocolate advertisements from 11 countries, during this period. In their synopses of the advertisements, similar themes repeat throughout:

  • Incorporation of children – especially young girls and infants (of both genders) – holding chocolate bars, playing games with chocolate, being mischievous
  • Most adults within the advertisements were women, either a mother or caretaker.
  • The mother-child relationship was highlighted: the mother was giving or receiving chocolate from a child, or having a ‘moment’ (drinking hot chocolate together) with their child
  • Most adults (primarily women) were portrayed as being from a higher socio-economic class
  • The health, energy, joyful benefits of consuming chocolate
  • Incorporating a sense of nationalism or romanticism in chocolate – people were portrayed in their traditional dress or courtship scenes included chocolate (Grivetti, pp. 193-198)

200 years later and the messaging in chocolate advertising is still the same. Again, as the narrative of chocolate – its history – has evolved, so have the connotations around its production, promotion, and purchase. Ellen Moore states it succinctly:

“The examination of chocolate companies’ advertisements allows a glimpse into how different identities – including gender, ethnic, and national – can be constructed through a consumption of chocolate. The stereotypes presented for the consumer through advertisements serve to reinforce cultural notions of ethnically homogenous British and U.S. national identity [while also concealing] the realities of chocolate production in Africa and Central America. The consumption of chocolate is thus almost exclusively associated with whiteness, while production is largely associated with exotic “Others”’ (Rubin, p. 67).

The advertisement below was created for the 2012 Super Bowl. It takes a unique perspective on the ‘other’ as it involves an interaction between people of white/European descent and an anthropomorphic entity – a piece of candy that has been given human characteristics. The traditional, stereotypical tropes around femininity and chocolate, as well as the racial disparity, are all more subtly apparent:

Ms. Brown, is the M&M ‘spokescandy’ highlighted under the tagline “not your average chocolate”.  This was her introduction. Until 2012, the only ‘female spokescandy’ was Miss Green, whose persona is vastly different. Miss Green is characterized as sensual and seductive, from her movements, to her voice, to the promotions in which she is seen. In contrast, Ms. Brown, titled the “Chief Chocolate Officer”, is portrayed as intelligent, well-spoken, and successful. Her appearance differs as well. Ms. Brown wears glasses and comfortable, what would be referred to in the business world as ‘no-nonsense’ heels. Her voice and persona seem to command respect.  The conversation she is having with her girlfriends at the party, before being interrupted, references a meeting with a head of State.

Ms. Brown, M&M Miss Green M&M

However, this promotion still slips into the stereotypical trends prevalent in chocolate advertising and societal gender dysfunctions. Before she is interrupted, the story that Ms. Brown is sharing highlights gender stereotypes around women’s place in business. Ms. Brown is heard saying “Mr. Prime Minister (PM), I’m flattered that you love chocolate, but I’m here strictly in a professional manner.” This infers that the PM was not focused on their business meeting but in making (sexual) advances to Ms. Brown; possibly because she is female or because – as we see a moment later from men at the party – he also assumed that she was ‘naked’.  This is similar to the harassment that women regularly receive in the workplace; further there is an allusion to the sexualization of an anthropomorphic being.

The interruption also implies the childishness of these men. They are snickering because of Ms. Browns supposed nudity. It is an oblique reference to the ‘sinful’ pleasure associated with chocolate, a fascination with the exotic, and the associations of sex already incorporated into chocolate mythology (Robertson, p. 68). However, in a crisp, condescending tone she acknowledges their assumption and corrects them. Then Red, a male M&M arrives, sees Ms. Brown, and removes his ‘clothing’. The ad ends with the song “Sexy and I Know It” playing, Red dancing, and Ms. Brown disgustedly looking on. Though the song is Red’s anthem and he too plays into the immature male persona; the advert and the chocolate promoted, is still a gendered product. While Ms. Brown is portrayed as a ‘modern, business woman’ this, and most advertisements, clearly imply the subjectivity of a female consumer. Women have been recognized as the gate-keepers of chocolate – the primary purchaser for themselves and their families, as well as the primary consumer (Cooper, 2004) so the advertising must strongly appeal to women. It is interesting that in this advert, that role has been fulfilled wholesale – our ‘woman’ is more than a purchaser or consumer, she is chocolate. Ms. Brown has become the ultimate ideal.

Further, this advert alludes to Moore’s earlier presumption that the primary identity of the chocolate consumer is white. Ms. Brown’s friends are white; in the background of the club, all of the attendees are white. Ms. Brown and Red are the only ‘beings of color’ at the event. This is a clear ethnic distinction and it can be assumed that this active construction of an ethnically homogenous chocolate consumer, is partially based within the history of chocolate and its early consumption by rich, white Europeans. Finally, in their appearance, from the figure flattering clothing to their jewelry, it can be assumed that their (her, her girlfriends and background people) socioeconomic background could be higher than middle class. The background music and ‘party atmosphere’ are more upscale and relaxed than the strobe lights and pounding music of a night club.

Sidney Mintz shares that “food choices and eating habits reveal distinctions of age, sex, status, culture, and even occupation” (Mintz, p. 3). These distinctions can be uniquely noted in this advertisement. They can also be turned on their head, as shown below:

This ‘twist’ on the M&M advertisement still acknowledges the atmosphere of friends getting together, but the norms have changed. The immaturity is missing; they are all of an age, enjoying their time together – eating, talking, possibly listening to a story. The friends are all mixed (gender and ethnicity) groups of (what could be) varying socioeconomic backgrounds. The new tagline ‘how do you eat your M&Ms?’ replaces ‘not your average chocolate’ to highlight the communal experience of enjoying M&Ms, instead of focusing on an anthropomorphic piece of candy with feminine characteristics that is possibly nude and unexpectedly intelligent.

The focus is more gender neutral, as no one member of a photo can be immediately sexualized and previous stereotypes of class, race, and national identity within an audience have been set aside. Finally, the song emphasizes the idea of “being friends” and not being “sexy and knowing it”.


Cooper, Glenda. Women and Chocolate: Simply Made for Each Other. New York Times. 13 March 2004. Web. 09 April 2015. < http://www.cacao-chocolate.com/choclove/women.html >

Grivetti, Louise E. and Shapiro, Howard-Yana. Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage. Hoboken. 2009. Print.

History timeline. Mars Company Website. History. N.D. Web. 10 April 2015. < http://www.mars.com/global/about-mars/history.aspx >

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

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women, and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester University Press. 2010. Print.

Rubin, Lawrence C. Food for Thought: Essays on Eating and Culture. McFarland and Company Publishers. 2008. Print.

Multimedia resources:  

BestCodTrolls. M&Ms Super Bowl Commercial 2012 – I’m Sexy and I Know It. Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 05 February 2012. Web. 8 April 2015. < https://youtu.be/Pc7BnT5X1tw >

Character photos. Ms. Brown and Miss Green. M&M. N.D. Web. 10 April 2015. < http://www.mms.com/#character >

Mucha, Alphonse. Chocolat Ideal, 1897. Web. 10 April 2015. < http://www.artnet.com/artists/alphonse-mucha/chocolat-ideal-a-fDVy2jZnfv6prLHLQxw8jg2 >

Nyree1luv. Friends: A Chocolate Production. Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 10 April 2015. Web. 10 April 2015. < https://youtu.be/voUcekR2kfA >

Vintage 19th century French poster. Chocolat Delespaul-havez. N.D. Web. 10 April 2015 < http://www.museumoutlets.com/vintage-french-posters/chocolat-delespaul-havez-vintage-french-advertising-poster >