Tag Archives: sustainability

Cacao and the Environment

Background:

            Around 2,000 years ago, people in the Americas began the cultivation of a small tropical American evergreen tree, Theobroma cacao, for its fruit, the cacao bean. The bean quickly became part of everyday life for Mesoamericans, who not only consumed cacao but also considered it to have elements of divine nature.  Although it is not certain how cacao arrived in Europe, thought to be by Spanish conquest, by the late 1500s it was a treasured treat that quickly gained popularity with upper class citizens. However, “chocolate didn’t suit the foreigners’ tastebuds at first… but once mixed with honey or cane sugar, it quickly became popular throughout Spain,” which led to the creation of chocolate, a sweetened food prepared from roasted and ground cacao seeds (Smithsonianmag). Over the next two centuries, chocolate expanded to include a spectrum of inexpensive treats all with more sugar and additives than the next. The growth in demand and expanding market created a need for large-scale cacao tree farms to produce at unmanageable rates.  Additionally, limited regulation on cacao production has manifested issues that will become unsustainable, given the restricted natural resources found on earth. Initially brewed as a drink for social, medical, and other cultural principles, over time cacao’s role in society has developed into a complex component of societal complications such as climate control, biodiversity, deforestation, and unfair trade on a global scale.

Chocolate Production:

Today, the largest producers of cacao are Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana followed by Nigeria and Cameroon. From 2000-2010 cocoa production increased from about 2,000,000 tons to around 3,000,000 tons. However, the average yield for farms has remained relatively low because many use poor soil and outdated growing methods (Wessel and Wessel).  Consequently, farmers hoping to increase their cocoa output sought out new land within the possible growing regions of cacao.  This exploration for new land has resulted in large-scale deforestation.  This issue has begun to impact the production levels of cacao and working conditions for farmers. In order to sustain production, farmers need to adapt new growing techniques which produce high-yielding harvests with reused cacao trees and farmland, new fair trade policies, and outside investment to improve infrastructure within these developing countries.

            Cacao farming can only take place approximately 15 degrees above or below the Equator.  After planting cacao trees it can take as long as three years for them produce enough to be harvested. A machete or sharp knife must be used to cut cacao pods as the trees are highly prone to disease. The beans are then removed from the pods, fermented, dried, removed from shells, and roasted. The farmers generally rely on cacao for large proportions of their household income selling their product to traders, who sell to exporters. The product is then sold to established companies which process cacao into different products to be sold on the market. This value chain has been subject to positive change within the last 20 years but there are still major flaws which will be address later in this post.

Due to the specific environmental needs for the production of cacao, lowland tropics including Latin America, West African, and Indonesia, the amount of land needed to produce cacao is very significant. “In fact, cocoa had the largest land-use footprint of all crop production in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, accounting for about one quarter… for Nigeria, cocoa has the largest land-use footprint of exported crops, accounting for 55 per cent, while in Indonesia cocoa accounts for 12 per cent of the exported footprint” (resourcetrade). Furthermore, this area continues to grow in countries where investment to improve production technique and equipment has stagnated. Consequently, around seventy percent of total global cacao production is produced by smallholder farmers, where productivity is loosely regulated and labor conditions are extremely poor.  This has given large companies the ability to unfairly treat these laborers by lowering compensation, only adding to the myriad of issues with cacao production.

Another problematic aspect of chocolate production is found during the manufacturing process.  A study published in the journal Food Research International, found that the chocolate industry creates around 2.1 million tons of greenhouse gases per year.  To put in perspective, this is comparable to the annual emissions of a city the size of Pittsburgh, PA. Additionally, it found that it takes as much as 1,000 liters of water to produce a single bar of chocolate (economictimes). There are other factors that could be added to these totals such as transportation costs, dairy production, and the materials used in packaging.

Deforestation and Biodiversity:

            As mentioned above, cacao is a grown by small-scale farmers in humid lowland tropics.  These areas are known to have high biodiversity which is a key element for producing high rates of healthy cacao beans. Farmers tend to use one of two growing techniques, the use of shade to compliment biodiversity benefits or full-sun exposure. With the market price volatility of cacao and the fragile nature of cacao trees, the full-sun exposure practice has become appealing to producers as it helps for a better harvest.  However, this technique results in more likelihood of disease and requires the use of herbicides to eliminate weed growth. Consequently, the different chemicals found in herbicides destroys the land.  Disease, loss of fertile soil, and other difficulties has also impacted the sustainability of such crops. Such concerns result in the continued clearing of new lands threatening biodiversity and deforestation of tropical forests (Franzen and Mulder). “Global forest loss due to cocoa production has been estimated at between 2 to 3 million hectares for the period 1988-2008, equivalent to about 1 per cent of total forest loss over this time,” which is substantial loss for producer countries (resourcetrade). By eliminating forest lands, there is a major reduction in biodiversity and other living systems living in such areas.  Wildlife habitats are eliminated and plant variety is reduced.  The loss of an ecosystem can also have lasting effects on production. As cacao farming becomes more stressful on the environment, the yields of cacao tress will start to diminish. With the increase in greenhouse gases, the higher average temperature is changing the location where cacao can be produced.  If this trend continues, the undesirable effects of production could start to impact more regions around the globe. With current practices in place, this is added pressure to the already high demand for cacao is unmaintainable.

Shade grown cacao
Sun exposure to Cacao plants

Unfair Trade:

            A major reason for this trend is the idea of unequal ecological exchange mentioned in Ndongo Samba Sylla’s work, The Fair Trade Scandal.  It is described as, “the non-observance by market prices of the scarce and sometimes non-renewable nature of environmental resources is the cornerstone of a new form of unequal exchange between North and South. Indeed, according to this approach, the environmental ‘energy’ which is embedded in developing countries’ exports is not factored into the invoicing of the prices they receive” (Sylla 2014).

Furthermore, countries with currently abundant natural resources sell to more developed countries at a price that does not compensate for their environmental deprivation and loss of resources. Cacao production regions have been victims of this crisis since the original European chocolate craze. Although cacao production techniques have many faults, it is not something farmers can control within the procedures of the current system.  The value chain of cacao trade has taken its toll on local farmers.  More specifically, international trade has hindered economic equality not taking into account economic, social, and environmental concerns of underdeveloped countries.

            For countries which produce large amounts of cacao, the private sector the chocolate industry has determined exports, market power, and price. The close relationship between supply and volatile demand has impacted the global markets inconsistency dealing with the price of cacao.  The regulation of production is important for sustainability, yet governments of producing countries have slowly lost the capability to manage international trade markets for cacao, which has deteriorated their ability to maintain domestic regulations. This unregulated market has left farmers susceptible to unjust trade.  Low export prices and privatized purchasing of cacao have therefore had negative externalities on the environment incentivizing farmers to plant and harvest at rate which natural resources cannot support (Ingram et al).

What Can Be Done:

            These economic, political, and market modifications have begun to transform as the cacao industry becomes more and more of a threat to the ecosystem. The United Nations, and groups alike, sustainable growth programs have created capacity to improve outdated farming practices and to reform financial and institutional framework for agricultural production.  A few key elements discussed below are the first steps towards cacao sustainability:

  1. Improve outdated Farming practices.
    • The rehabilitation of existing farms- the economic lifetime of a cacao tree is between 30 and 40 years. Farms that qualify for rehabilitation can integrate good maintenance and innovative disease control which can help raise their harvest yield by forty percent over a 4-year time period (Wessel and Wessel). Additionally, these farms can be partially or completely replanted. Trials have shown that planting young trees among old trees can lead to more successful harvest than planting under temporary shaded fields that have been deforested (Nalley and Popp).
    • Government supported replanting arrangements—the distribution of seeds which have more resistance to disease. Amazon hybrids have been associated with forty-two percent higher yields (Wessel and Wessel).
    • Shade-grown cacao— Naturally cacao grows in the shade of rainforest cover.  Farms have the ability to transition from sun-grown cacao back to more natural ways of farming, either by planting in areas of the rainforest untouched by deforestation or by planting tropical trees and plants around their cacao plantations.
      • The use of more advanced fertilizers, pesticides, modified soil, and improved seeds would supplement these practices (Franzen and Mulder).
    • Technology and Improvements in Knowledge—Due to the small average size of cacao farms, farmers do not have access to new technologies that would increase yields, limiting the need to expand plantations.  Additionally, as the knowledge frontier in farming advances, cacao farmers remain unable to adapt these methods on their lands.  Local governments and the agricultural sector need to incentivize farmers to adopt new, more efficient farming practices through the stabilization of farmer’s incomes, easier access to credit, and more effective land tenure systems (weadapt).
  2. Reform financial and institutional framework for agricultural production
    • The introduction of due diligence requirements for importers
      • Prohibit the import of illegally produced cacao
    • Inclusion of sustainability provisions in trade agreements
      • Negotiate mutual trade agreements with producer countries intended to support legal forest zones through the formation of national systems to certify authorized cacao (resourcetrade).
    • Improvements in infrastructure for production countries
      • Target rural areas to improve education, health, roads, and access to new supplies and credit.

All reforms mentioned above are all needed within the cacao Industry. The high dependence on cacao production and the risks of climate change are both convincing arguments as to a reason for exploration into improving the business and livelihoods of all those involved.  There will be roadblocks establishing truly sustainable cacao trade, economy, and environmental system but there is great motivation to improve the culture around cacao as a whole.

Sources:

blog.generalmills.com/wp-content/uploads/care-cocoa-2.jpg

foodfreedom.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/cabruca.jpg

thebftonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/deforestation.jpg

resources.mynewsdesk.com/image/upload/c_limit,dpr_2.0,f_auto,h_700,q_auto,w_670/xxuzvpvmjg1cphs3boro.jpg

Sylla, Ndongo. Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich. Ohio University Press, 2014.

Fiegl, Amanda. “A Brief History of Chocolate.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 1 Mar. 2008, www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/a-brief-history-of-chocolate-21860917/.

“Cocoa Trade, Climate Change and Deforestation.” Resourcetrade.earth, resourcetrade.earth/stories/cocoa-trade-climate-change-and-deforestation#section-186.

“NCAP Ghana: Assessment of Agriculture Sector.” WeADAPT, www.weadapt.org/knowledge-base/national-adaptation-planning/ghana-agriculture.

“Chocolate Production May Be Harming Environment: Study.” The Economic Times, 2 Apr. 2018, economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/environment/global-warming/chocolate-production-may-be-harming-environment-study/articleshow/63576249.cms?from=mdr.

Franzen, Margaret, and Monique Borgerhoff Mulder. “Ecological, Economic and Social Perspectives on Cocoa Production Worldwide.” Biodiversity and Conservation, vol. 16, no. 13, 2007, pp. 3835–3849., doi:10.1007/s10531-007-9183-5.

Ingram, Verina, et al. “The Impacts of Cocoa Sustainability Initiatives in West Africa.” Sustainability, vol. 10, no. 11, 2018, p. 4249., doi:10.3390/su10114249.

Wessel, Marius, and P.m. Foluke Quist-Wessel. “Cocoa Production in West Africa, a Review and Analysis of Recent Developments.” NJAS – Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences, vol. 74-75, 2015, pp. 1–7., doi:10.1016/j.njas.2015.09.001.

Plant and Community Disease: Impediments in Small Scale Cacao Farming.

In the summer after my sophomore year of college, I conducted research on sustainable development in Costa Rica and Panama. This was one of the most enriching academic and personal experiences in my life to-date, especially the week that I spent living on a small-scale cacao farm in Mastatal, Costa Rica. That magical week involved working and eating alongside the absolutely lovely family that has owned the land its cacao trees for generations.

Mastatal is a unique agricultural community that lies in the south west region of the San Jose Province. It is a town that has always relied on agriculture, usually on a small scale. It has never industrialized and found a comfortable place in the larger Costa Rica economy, but since the turn of the century it has revived its economy through agricultural tourism, or agritourism.

Wait… what is agritourism?

Agricultural tourism is a subset of the larger trend toward ecotourism, a style of travel that involves leaving a small footprint on the environment, while connecting on a deeper level with it. Agritourism involves staying and working on a farm with the goal of getting closer to the source of the food you eat. This trend is generally being driven by global changes in food and dining, climate and energy conservation, health and wellness, and heritage conservation (Ciglovska, 278). Four farms in Mastatal, all focusing on different products, use agritourism as a source of additional income, hosting visitors, giving tours, making local dishes, and putting the travelers to work. Where I was staying, La Iguana Chocolate, was the main attraction, because everybody loves chocolate.

The group of students that I was a part of worked alongside the family that owned the cacao operation, while conducting field research on the budding agritourism industry in the small town as a whole. The work was hard but rewarding and gave me closer insight into the process of harvesting cacao and making chocolate, as well as the struggles of a small scale producer. Chocolate is made from the beans inside a fruit that grows from a tree, something that I was unaware of before my time on the farm. Upon arriving we were given a full tasting, one of the services that is offered to travelers each day. The couple that operates the farm greeted us with an interesting looking fruit that reminded me of a squash, and when they broke it open it was filled with small white fuzzy pods. They encouraged us to take one of the pods and eat the white fuzzy material off of it, and that was the moment that I found my favorite fruit. Yes, cacao is my favorite fruit. It sounds crazy… most people have no idea where the cocoa powder and butter that makes their favorite treat comes from, or that the raw fruity product could be so delicious. For those of you struggling to believe me, I have attached a video of a tasting. That first sight of the cacao pods was only the beginning of my time spent with them over the course of my time at La Iguana.

The most rewarding part of the whole week was the time spent in the fields harvesting the cacao pods. The work is eye-opening in its difficulty. We started our day with a quick breakfast at around seven o’clock in the morning before packing lunch and all the necessary tools onto the back of a single horse. We then set off through the back of the immediate property, down a dirt, and then mud, road for about a mile until we came to a river. Shoes were removed and the river was crossed, the small dog accompanying us was carried, of course. After we scaled a large hill we finally reached the edge of a forest, situated in higher altitude than we were previously. The walk alone was enough to exhaust the group, but it is highly necessary that the cacao trees are in the perfect environment to grow effectively. Cacao trees need to be in an area with high moisture but good draining, usually shaded by other trees and surrounded by a heavy underbrush of leaves. This is knowledge that has been passed down for generations, since the first cacao tree was brought to Mastatal. These very particular conditions were perfect in this hillside forest, and the journey to reach the trees is absolutely worth it when the trees are highly productive. This is especially true when your livelihood depends on it.

Once we got to the vast area of cacao trees there was important training that needed to take place. There were several strains of cacao growing in the field. This meant that the ideal color and shape of the pods that were ready for harvest could differ from tree to tree. Green pods turn a deep yellow, but yellow pods turn a bright red. Clearly there is room for confusion. Beyond that, any pod that has black spots on it must be taken down despite its level of ripeness. The black spots are a disease that can ruin an entire harvest, Moniliophthora roreri, but more on that later. We also had to learn how to properly use the sharp tools to cut the pods from the trunks of the cacao trees. It seemed like at every step in the process of growing and harvesting cacao there was only one very specific way of doing things. While we may have been a bit unprepared, we were set off into the forest, machete and large hemp bag in hand.

Aside from the cliff of mud and rushing river that had to be passed to reach the crop, the work itself was awfully dangerous as well. Costa Rica is home to the Fer-de-Lance, an incredibly venomous viper who likes to live in underbrush… underbrush much like that required to grow cacao. Some of the pods are also out of reach, making climbing a tree with a machete in hand necessary. Once our bags were full with pods, we hauled them to the center of the forest and all dumped them out to extract the beans. While working on the pods, we chatted with the family about how they got started in cacao, and what the biggest challenges have been in making a living from the crop.

Pile of cacao pods from our harvest. Black pods have the Monilio disease and may not be useable.

While roughly two thirds of the worlds cacao production happens in West Africa, the plant is indigenous to Central and South America, an area that produces only five percent of the worlds cacao today (Leissle, 16). This is due to the colonial exportation of the production means to an area that was understood as having cheap and abundant labor that could support the booming chocolate industry. La Iguana is one of the few farms still producing cacao in the Mastatal area. We were told that cacao trees were brought to the area in the middle of the twentieth century because the Costa Rican Ministry of Agriculture saw it as an opportunity to breathe life into the economy of the area. In essence, small scale subsistence and fruit farmers were forced to change their production techniques and land use to cater to cacao. Encouraging shaded agro-ecosystems like cacao also “provide a promising means of addressing the challenges of creating a forest‐like habitat for tropical biodiversity in a rapidly deforested landscape, while simultaneously providing a lucrative crop for local agricultural communities” (Phillips‐Mora et al.).

However, many of the farmers that were planting cacao in Mastatal had to stop in the mid-90s when Monilio, the fungal disease discussed above, was spread through the area. We were told that there was no concrete understanding of how the disease came to the area, perhaps on the clothes of a traveler studying cacao. It was clear that this disease could cause hardship that seemed unsurmountable. It was well known that Monilio could be destroy long-term economic viability if even one yield was infected (Evans et al.). After the disease initially hit the La Iguana farm, they could not get enough pure cacao pods and had to revert to selling only fruit from their smaller fruit farm for a living. A highlight is that even in pods with black spots covering most of the fruit, it is possible that the fungus has not yet reached the beans on the inside, and the cacao is still useable.

A drawing I did for the farm as a parting gift. It reads “It’s what’s on the inside that counts” in reference to Monilia on cacao.

While La Iguana has implemented a few techniques to diminish the impact of the Monilia on their crop that has allowed them to maintain good harvests, there have been other struggles for the small farm in establishing a sustainable business model. The largest struggle for them, as well as the other farms shifting towards an agritourism model, was attracting the right crowds of people. The research that I ultimately produced from my time there looked at the marketing techniques of each of these farms, and how they are perceived by the surrounding community. I found that the initial launch of these farms as tourist destinations brought the wrong kind of people to the town, creating a tension between the farms and other locals. Jarkko Saarinen is a scholar who has done extensive research in the field, and he made a similar generalization that “high development goals of rural tourism may separate rural communities and tourism actors, which can cause economic and social conflicts, insecurity and locally unwanted changes in rural landscapes.” However, once La Iguana was able to control the crowds they were attracting, and their ability to bring new people to the area started having a positive impact on the greater community, they reached a new level of stability and social sustainability.

However, both the control of tourists coming to eat chocolate from the source, and the control of Monilio are ongoing battles for La Iguana Chocolate as well as other small scale cacao farmers in the region. I am infinitely grateful for the time I was able to spend there, and the friends I made in Mastatal. The knowledge that I gained from living and working in a small agricultural town going through a beautiful economic transformation will allow me to better navigate these communities in the future and work with them on their long term development and sustainability: environmental, economic, and social.

Works Cited:

Evans, Harry C., et al. “What’s in a Name: Crinipellis, the Final Resting Place for the Frosty Pod Rot Pathogen of Cocoa?” Mycologist, vol. 16, no. 4, Nov. 2002, pp. 148–52. Cambridge Core, doi:10.1017/S0269915X02004093.

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity, 2018.

Phillips‐Mora, W., et al. “Biodiversity and Biogeography of the Cacao (Theobroma Cacao) Pathogen Moniliophthora Roreri in Tropical America.” Plant Pathology, vol. 56, no. 6, 2007, pp. 911–22. Wiley Online Library, doi:10.1111/j.1365-3059.2007.01646.x.

Saarinen, Jarkko. “Traditions of Sustainability in Tourism Studies.” Annals of Tourism Research, vol. 33, no. 4, Oct. 2006, pp. 1121–40. ScienceDirect, doi:10.1016/j.annals.2006.06.007.

All photos were taken by Taylor Gates.

The Sweet King: Chocolate in the Modern Media Age

With the rise of food media in the modern age, there are countless avenues through which we are exposed to the most avant-garde of gastronomy. From the massive influx of visual information on platforms like Instagram and Facebook to the constant features of shows on Netflix and The Food Network, food has captured attention far beyond its functionality utility of nourishing and sustaining the human populace. This effect has only been reinforced with the globalization of certifications for the most prestigious of restaurants and businesses in the world. The moment that Michelin adjusts its stars, San Pellegrino announces its 50-Best list, or the James Beard Foundation names its honorees, the modern media swarms to cover stories around these businesses to highlight what distinguished each establishment from the huge field of competitors. Given the increased emphasis on food within the modern media age, food occupies an extremely powerful point of influence for pushing specific agendas.

Historically, chocolate has always occupied a controversial space in terms of media representation. Since chocolate first emerged in Europe as a highly sought-after commodity and then became a delicacy appreciated by the masses, there have been a fair share of scandals experienced by chocolate producers, despite the global addiction and appreciation for the product. Given the complex process and numerous entities which chocolate production requires, chocolate producing companies are under incredible scrutiny for the ethics behind their product production, and this sentiment has largely continued into the modern media age. Furthermore, while chocolate has yet to shed its historical baggage in terms of its production process, there are numerous agendas committed to improving upon this practice that aim to shed a more positive image of the product, while bringing about tangible change in the chocolate industry. Therefore, chocolate serves as the perfect case study for an examination on the historical role of media and the development of the practice into the modern age. Despite its immense history, the narrative of chocolate is still being written.

Early Media History of Chocolate

There are limited written records that can commentate on the history of cacao associated with its endemic regions in Latin and South America. However, there are several artifacts that serve as “media” in terms of documenting the significance of the ingredient and the practice. Due to modern archeological techniques, the Rio Azul vessel has been characterized to contain certain compounds present within cacao such as theobromine, while also having the Mayan hieroglyphics for cacao (Stuart 2009, Coe 2013). This piece constitutes historical media as the hieroglyphics displayed on the vessel would be presented for ceremonial events (Stuart 2009). However, as other forms of historical media are still being discovered or were not preserved, it is difficult to assess the extent to which media associated with cacao propagated the indigenous populations, but there was media for the sake of documentation and ceremonial purposes.

rio-azul-front-from-hollis
The Rio Azul Vessel represents one of the earliest indications of chocolate and media interacting (Image via Hollis).

While Hernan Cortes is commonly attributed with the movement of cacao and thus chocolate to Europe in the 16th century, there appears to be a lack of media documentation during this time period (Coe 2013). This lack of documentation is likely related to limited accessibility to sources in this time frame and thus cannot be thoroughly examined within this essay. Starting in the mid-17th century, an abundance of media sources became accessible in terms of disturbing the preparation of a wide array of exotic foods such as chocolate, coffee, and tea. Within France and Spain, chocolate consumption appears to have become a ubiquitous practice as it is represented in many texts that were released (Coe 2013). These texts purported the health benefits of cacao and chocolate, while also presenting numerous methods of preparation that would make it more palatable (Colmenero 1640).

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As these texts represent early presentations of chocolate within Europe, there is a focus on emphasizing the exoticism of these products through imagery and descriptions of their indigenous use cases (Dufour 1671). Additionally, as the media was intended to encourage further consumption of cacao and chocolate, these articles encourage the literate population to partake in the exotic goods as there are innumerable benefits from coughs to indigestion (Colmenero 1640, Dufour 1671). However, as addressed by Coe, chocolate consumption took substantially longer to become normalized within Great Britain (Coe 2013). This can be clearly observed within the texts are it is clearly indicated the original documents for these media pieces were translated media from Spain and France (Crook 1685). Therefore, through following the translation and distribution of media within the Europe, the popularization of chocolate can be followed in a precise manner.

Drama in Chocolate Paradise

As chocolate became increasingly popular within Europe, there were numerous innovations that allowed for its rising accessibility. With innovations such as the Dutch process by Van Houten, conching by Lindt, and milk chocolate by Peter, chocolate was mass producible and thus while still a luxury, was consumed by a substantial proportional of the population (Coe 2013). Accompanying the rise in chocolate availability, numerous social movements emerged in Europe such as the abolition of slavery, which subsequently resulted in increased awareness on ethical business practices (Satre 2005). Through the increased interest in business morality, cacao farms and chocolate factories became a focal point for media scrutiny.

The most infamous case of media involvement was introduced by Henry Nevinson through an article and subsequent book on slavery-like conditions observed in São Tomé and Príncipe on cacao farms (Nevinson 1906). These cacao farms were primarily managed by the Cadbury chocolate company, which was founded on morale Quaker values, so the cries of possible slavery on their farms was incredibly problematic. As the article and book by Nevinson circulated throughout Great Britain, where Cadbury was headquartered, there were countless cries for Cadbury to stop sourcing their chocolate from São Tomé and Príncipe or risk being boycotted by the general populace (Satre 2005). To exacerbate the issue, Portugal which owned São Tomé and Príncipe had banned slavery in the islands earlier and therefore insisted that the report did not accurately reflect the conditions labeled on the island (Higgs 2012). In response to these circumstances, Cadbury deployed their own reporter, Joseph Burtt, to assess the situation, under slightly different pretenses as he was instructed to amicably engage with plantation owners (Satre 2005, Higgs 2012). As this scandal increased in intensity, Cadbury sued newspapers such as The Standard for libel but ultimately did stop importing cacao from São Tomé and Príncipe (Satre 2005). Regardless of the actual reason Cadbury decided to boycott this cacao, it demonstrates the immense power of media and chocolate on a national and international scale.

sao tome
Various news outlets covered the response of Cadbury to the slavery allegations (Image from The African Mail via Hollis).

While media played a role in terms of maintaining accountability of the Cadbury cacao farms within São Tomé and Príncipe, there were additional instances of media playing a supplementary role in facilitating advertising and sales for chocolate purveyors. The rigid but benevolent life of Milton Hershey and the Hershey chocolate company demonstrates the possibility of positive media reinforcing the narrative behind a product. Hershey was a disciplined and compassionate individual who sought to provide for those less fortunate in his environment (D’Antonio 2007). As part of his personal quest, a model town was constructed in Hershey, Pennsylvania to accommodate the needs of the factory and provide a safe and hospitable environment for the local community. Furthermore, when Hershey expanded sugar facilities into Cuba, the company was praised immensely for the quality of the development and the sustainable business practices (The Louisiana Planter and Sugar Manufacturer 1920). Through features in numerous periodicals, the model town in Hershey, Pennsylvania and the Hershey’s chocolate factory became nationally and internationally recognized as the gold-standard for effective operations (Young 1923, Times 1928, Times 1933). The success of this positive media campaign can be observed during the peak of the Great Depression as demonstrated by an increase in profit margins, due to the unique advertising strategy of relying on word of mouth and media coverage (Allen 1932). Essentially, this indicates that through leveraging the media, the Hershey’s Chocolate company was able to forego substantial advertising, while retaining premium status of its products. The media played a crucial role not only in maintaining business ethics but also in establishing positive agendas within the chocolate industry during its development.

hershey
Milton Hershey built a business that relied on positive media and word of mouth to spread the product. (Image from Wikimedia)

Chocolate in the Modern Media

Moving into the modern age, there is almost an overabundance of media that is available, which presents a unique challenge as the user can curate their own opinions regarding products like chocolate. Therefore, the utilization of media must be strategic and diverse to appeal to specific interests of users but also be sufficiently applicable that a wide array of viewers could be drawn in. Despite the excessive number of media options, chocolate remains at the focal point of food media as numerous individuals within the field are leveraging their positions to improve the state of the cacao and chocolate production.

Chocolate Smudges on Pen and Keyboard

            Following in the footsteps of Nevinson and other chocolate journalists, cacao and chocolate have remained at the forefront of food writing. Articles that feature chocolate and cacao are often highlighted on major media outlets such as The New York Times and Washington Post, which demonstrates a continued interest for a broad audience. Furthermore, the creation of boutique food magazines such as The Lucky Peach and online food platforms like Eater have made accessing musings about the guilty pleasure even easier. However, that is not to say that the issues surrounding chocolate and cacao have deviated immensely from the past.

Given the global nature of the chocolate industry, historically, it was difficult for journalists to fully engage with every party involved. Therefore, while certain situations such as the Cadbury situation in São Tomé and Príncipe were exposed, many others likely slipped beneath the radar. As the world has become more interconnected and accessible, many of the problems that plague cacao and chocolate production have come to light. Starting from the beginning of chocolate production on the cacao farms, numerous media outlets have exposed that horrific conditions that workers often experience alongside issues with child labor (Romero 2009, O’Keefe 2016). Despite numerous instances that have raised these problems in the past, the chocolate industry has yet to address these problems in a constitutive manner. However, through raising awareness of these issues on a broader scale, the hope within media is to inspire groups to act and address these problems.

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Child labor is still a problem plaguing the chocolate industry. (Image from Wikimedia)

 

Alongside the continued discussion on labor concerns within the chocolate industry, another vestige of the chocolate past is discussions on the purported health benefits associated with chocolate. The healthy discussion surrounding chocolate has continued in the modern age as various “experts” with the field attempt to leverage their authority for the sake of pushing their respective agendas. Media outlets basically constantly contradict themselves through the slew of articles published in both support and dissent for the health benefits associated with chocolate (Oaklander 2014, Drayer 2018). Therefore, while the narrative has shifted from the historical perspective that cacao and chocolate having almost magical therapeutic properties, the jury is out on the current state of the field. Due to the immense amount of media content that is available, there is the unfortunate consequence that the true nature of chocolate is diluted. While each viewer has the privilege of establishing their own opinion towards chocolate and cacao, it becomes increasingly more challenging to distill the truth.

Ready, Set, Chocolate!

While traditional forms of media such as newspapers and journals remain influential, newer forms of visual media have become increasingly prominent and preferred to primarily text-based articles. From TV shows to documentaries and from Youtube series to Netflix features, the number of video-based chocolate media has also reached incredible levels with the profound advantage of providing a glimpse into the reality behind situations beyond words. Even after disregarding the innumerable recipes and delectable showcases of chocolate, videos and visual representations play a pivotal role in highlighting the production process and issues that surround the chocolate market.

In line with written media, video content has been utilized extensively to challenge the chocolate industry and condemn problematic practices of cacao farming. Numerous documentaries have been released that demonstrate instances of child labor and abuse on cacao plantations, but also reveal the context for why the practice occurs. In Brazil, while cacao farming is relatively smaller in scale, it is apparent that the use of underage labor stagnates the progression of youth within the state (Papel Social 2019). Within numerous African countries, the child labor problem within the cacao industry is even more rampart as there are further indications of abused and forced labor (Romano 2010, O’Keefe 2016). However, this issue presents a conundrum because child labor is almost necessitated in both of these situations to provide sufficient income for the families at large. As these pieces of videography highlight the labor issues surrounding the chocolate industry, it demonstrates the prominence of this issue, while providing a more visually compelling argument for the viewer.

The Cocoa Route from Papel Social on Vimeo.

While many negative aspects of chocolate production have been revealed through video media, through visualizing the whole process of cacao farming, there are numerous movements by leading chefs and food personalities within the world that aim to inspire change through chocolate.On Parts Unknown, the enigmatic chef, Anthony Bourdain, explored the reaches of indigenous Peru and was inspired by the discovery of white cacao beans (Bourdain 2013).

By engaging with these local purveyors, Bourdain and Eric Ripert, head chef of Le Bernadin, collaborated with Eclat chocolate to create the “Good and Evil” chocolate bar, based on sustainable production of a unique ingredient (Eclat Chocolate 2013). Other prominent chefs have taken advantage of their media opportunities to promise similar movements for the chocolate industry.

Anthony Bourdain & Eric Ripert discuss Good & Evil Chocolate Bar from Eclat Chocolate on Vimeo.

Joan Roca, the head chef of El Celler de Can Roca, spoke regarding compassionate cooking and mentioned his goal to build a sustainable chocolate company within Spain (Roca 2017). As his family restaurant remains number one in the world on San Pellegrino’s 50-best List, Roca is leveraging his position at the pinnacle of food to improve the chocolate industry further (Jenkins 2018). Given the profound interest in food video media, it is reassuring that numerous prominent figures chose chocolate as their method of instigating change within the world.

Chocolate in Focus

            Chocolate is one of the world’s most intriguing topics for media coverage due to the complex nature of its production and ubiquitous appreciation around the world. Through a historical and modern examination of media representations of chocolate, it is apparent that chocolate serves as a controversial platform for raising awareness to sociopolitical issues. Despite its ambivalent history and problematic present, chocolate will always be in the media spotlight. In this modern media age, there is a surplus of information for each user to establish their individual stances on chocolate, but effective media efforts have pushed the narrative towards making the chocolate industry more ethical and sustainable.

 

References

Allen, E. E. (1932). Hershey Chocolate’s Success: Turning Smaller Volume Into Increasing Profits–This Year’s First Quarter Not So Good. Barron’s (1921-1942); Boston, Mass., p. 22.

Boudain, Anthony and CNN. (2013). Peru: Anthony Bourdain sees source of rare white cacao beans (Parts Unknown). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v064HmUSJNg

Central Hershey. (1920). The Louisiana Planter and Sugar Manufacturer (1888-1924); New Orleans, 64(7), 108–111.

Coe, S. D., & Coe, M. D. (2013). The true history of chocolate (Third edition). London: Thames & Hudson.

Colmenero de Ledesma, A. (1640). A curious treatise of the nature and quality of chocolate. VVritten in Spanish by Antonio Colmenero, doctor in physicke and chirurgery. And put into English by Don Diego de Vades-forte. Imprinted at London : By I. Okes, dwelling in Little St. Bartholomewes, 1640.

Colmenero de Ledesma, A. (1652). Chocolate: or, An Indian drinke. By the wise and moderate use whereof, health is preserved, sicknesse diverted, and cured, especially the plague of the guts; vulgarly called the new disease; fluxes, consumptions, & coughs of the lungs, with sundry other desperate diseases. By it also, conception is caused, the birth hastened and facilitated, beauty gain’d and continued. / Written originally in Spanish, by Antonio Colminero of Ledesma, Doctor in Physicke, and faithfully rendred in the English, by Capt. James Wadsworth. London, : Printed by J.G. for Iohn Dakins, dwelling neare the Vine Taverne in Holborne, where this tract, together with the chocolate it selfe, may be had at reasonable rates., 165[2].

D’Antonio, M. (2007). Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s extraordinary life of wealth, empire, and utopian dreams. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks.

Dufour, P. S., Colmenero de Ledesma, A., & Chamberlayne, J. (1685). The manner of making coffee, tea, and chocolate as it is used in most parts of Europe, Asia, Africa, and America / newly done out of French and Spanish. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.galegroup.com/tinyurl/6km558

Dufour, P. S., Dufour, P. S., Colmenero de Ledesma, A., & Marradon, B. (1685). Traitez nouveaux & curieux du café, du thé, et du chocolate. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.galegroup.com/tinyurl/9ToUT7

Eclat Chocolate (2013). Anthony Bourdain & Eric Ripert discuss Good & Evil Chocolate Bar. Retrieved May 3, 2019, from Vimeo website: https://vimeo.com/54406874

Higgs, C. (2013). Chocolate islands: cocoa, slavery, and colonial Africa.

Jenkins T. (2018). Take a Look at the Roca Brothers’ New Chocolate Factory. (n.d.). Retrieved May 3, 2019, from Fine Dining Lovers website: https://www.finedininglovers.com/blog/news-trends/casa-cacao-girona-roca

Mathon, M. (1911). Angola-San Thomé Labour. The African Mail, p. 263. Retrieved from Nineteenth Century Collections Online.

McNeil, C. L. (Ed.). (2006). Chocolate in Mesoamerica: a cultural history of cacao. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.

Oaklander, M (2014). Should I Eat Dark Chocolate? Retrieved May 3, 2019, from Time website: http://time.com/3593624/benefits-of-dark-chocolate/

O’Keefe, B. (2016). Inside Big Chocolate’s Child Labor Problem. Retrieved May 3, 2019, from Fortune website: http://fortune.com/big-chocolate-child-labor/

Papel Social (2019). The Cocoa Route. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/332509945

Romano, Robin. (2010). Documentary. The Dark Side Of Chocolate. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Vfbv6hNeng

Roca, J. (2017). The World’s 50 Best Restaurants & 50 Best Bars.  Joan Roca on why cooking is caring at #50BestTalks. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOp5PkVMt4c

Romero, S. (2009, July 28). In Venezuela, Plantations of Cacao Stir Bitterness. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/29/world/americas/29cacao.html

Satre, L. J. (2005). Chocolate on trial: slavery, politics, and the ethics of business (1st ed). Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press.

Times, S. C. to T. N. Y. (1933). CUBA HONORS HERSHEY.: Machado Bestows Highest Honor on Chocolate Manufacturer. New York Times, p. 15.

Times, S. to T. N. Y. (1928). Hershey Gives $2,000,000 Community Centre To Pennsylvania Village He Has Built Up. New York Times, p. 1.

Young, J. C. (1923). HERSHEY, UNIQUE PHILANTHROPIST: His Munificent Gift to Orphan Boys a Long Cherished Idea. New York Times, p. XX4.

 

The Future of Sustainable Cacao Practices

The contemporary state of the cacao-chocolate industry is rapidly evolving, and overall seems to be heading in a positive direction. In the past, two separate narratives have been told about chocolate, as discussed in my first blog post here: https://chocolateclass.wordpress.com/2019/03/15/blog-post-the-dark-side-of-cacao/. One tells a romanticized story of chocolate which is portrayed as a food of the gods, holding spiritual healing power, bringing people together socially, and even increasing wealth when used as currency. Simultaneously, a second narrative tells a story of slaves working gruelling conditions to make the romanticized story possible. However, in the contemporary cacao-chocolate industry, the two narratives are coming together to be told as one, which is something that we should be excited about. People are beginning to understand where chocolate is coming from and the processes involved, and people are changing their purchasing decisions accordingly.

In this blog post, we will discuss three different ways in which the two narratives are coming together to create a positive future for the cacao industry. The first is the expanding industry of bean-to-bar chocolate factories, which recognise the dark side of production and strive to make working conditions fair at all levels of the supply chain. Secondly, the United Nations is turning chocolate into more than a food, by creating its own chocolate bar as a symbol of social change. Finally, the fact that chocolate production is becoming a topic of discussion and more people are becoming educated is changing the way people think about cacao production at every level of the industry. 

  1. Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Production 

The first concrete measure we can look at that shows the two narratives coming together is bean-to-bar chocolate production. In the past, a major issue with the production of chocolate has been the disjointed supply chain, where those experiencing slave labour in the early stages of production have no interaction with those selling the product in the final stages. This makes it easy for two different narratives to develop. In various lectures, we discussed the rise of the big five and race for the global market. As seen in this image below, the chocolate packages only told the romanticised story of chocolate, appealing to consumers and leaving out the story of slave labour which was a vial part of the supply chain. “A True History of Chocolate” by Coe and Coe, discusses the immense importance of chocolate from social, religious, medical, and economic perspectives, outlining aspects such as “the food of the gods”, “the Mesoamerican genesis”, and “the Aztecs as the people of the sun” (Coe and Coe, 2013). The wrappers in the big five chocolate companies encapsulate these ideas, appealing to consumers and leaving out an important part of the overall narrative. 

Image 1: The Big Five Chocolate Producers

This is where the importance of bean to bar chocolate production becomes relevant. Here, we will discuss “the small five” companies that are making a big difference. These bean-to-bar companies may not hold as much of the market share as the big five, but they are making huge differences in the way we think about ethical cacao production, and combing the two narratives we have been talking about. The following five examples of bean-to-bar chocolate companies show how they are addressing issues with the supply chain, bringing the narrative of slave labour and the narrative of the shiny wrappers closer together, and improving conditions for those at the beginning of the supply chain.

1. Golden Tree Ghana

Image 2: Golden Tree Ghana



One example we discussed in class is the Golden Tree Ghana which is a cocoa processing company in Ghana. Golden Tree Ghana is a local bean-to-bar producer which makes products including the Akuafo Bar, which is a lemon-flavoured chocolate bar, and very well-know in the region. Golden Tree Ghana also makes chocolate coatings, cocoa, and popular drinks including Alltime and Vitaco. This bean-to-bar chocolate company aims for honesty, transparency, and accountability at every level of the supply chain. While creating a quality product for consumers, they are aware of the dark side of production, and making strides to not only improve working conditions for those producing the cacao, but improving transparency so that consumers know exactly how the products they are buying are being sourced. 

2. Raaka

Raaka is changing the way that consumers view chocolate. On each bar, facts can be found on the inside of the wrapper about where the cacao as purchased, how much they paid for the cacao, and other information about their company. Unlike shiny chocolate wrappers made by other companies such as the big five, this wrapper encapsulates the story of labour, the very thing that makes the production of every bar possible. This company may not be one of the big five, but it is doing big things to transform the cacao industry. Their genuine interest in persuing ethical practices shows through their mission statement: 

“We believe our process should value the community of growers, producers, and makers whose livelihoods depend on cacao and chocolate. It takes an entire village of individuals, literally stretching across cultures and continents, to make every delicious bar. As chocolate makers, we’re at the end of this supply chain closest to the customer. This allows us to tell some of the stories behind each bar we make.” – Raaka.

Image 3: Raaka Wrapper

3. Madecasse

Furthermore, the Brooklyn based company, Madecasse, is produced in Madagascar, but sold in Whole Food shops around America. 

Image 4: Madacasse Chocolate

Madacasse as a company has recognized that there is a lack of transparency in the chocolate industry, especially in big companies. There are thousands of miles and layers of middlemen separating the farmers that grow the cacao, and the consumers who eat it. Hence, it is easy for the two separate narratives to continue simultaneously, with consumers having no idea where their chocolate product is coming from. Madacasse has integrated their company into some of the poorest communities to buy directly from the cacao producers, changing the way chocolate is produced. As a result, farmers are earning more, increasing their quality of life, and the quality of chocolate is being increased for consumers. The following quote from their website shows their belief that Fair trade is not enough, as companies need to really understand the supply chain to create positive change.

“Fair trade is a label. It’s used by large companies, to verify that farmers who live thousands of miles away from where the chocolate is made are paid a fair price for their cocoa (which isn’t actually fair enough to be sustainable).  It’s a top-down approach for companies with an outsourced supply chain.” – Madacasse. 

Madacasse is working from the very bottom of the supply chain, with workers on the ground to make cacao farming as sustainable and as fair as possible. 

4. French Broad Chocolates

Image 5: French Broad Chocolates 

Sourcing sustainably is an integral part of the process for this small bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturer. The employees at French Broad Chocolates spend a great deal of their time with the cacao workers in Central and South American, building relationships and understanding the process of production. Through those relationships, a platform is created to negotiate mutually beneficial wages, so workers can continue their jobs with dignity, pride, and prosperity. Currently, cacao is being sources from Peru, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Guatemela, and produced in a small factory in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. Just like the other bean-to-bar companies we have discussed, this company is taking enormous strides in putting the workers at the bottom of the supply chain first and reducing the disparity in the two narratives that have previously been told. 

5. Dandelion

Dandelion adopts a similar approach to the sourcing of their cacao. They strive to work directly with the producers who grow, ferment, and dry the cacao. Just like French Broad Chocolates, the employees at Dandelion travel as frequently as possible to the beginning of the supply chain, to best understand the practices of those producing the cacao, and gain valuable feedback from the workers. Wages for the workers exceed the world market price, as an effort to strengthen relationships with workers, and commit to creating the best and most distinctive cacao possible.

Image 6: Dandelion Chocolates

As seen in these five examples, bean-to-bar chocolate production has the potential to change the way chocolate is made, especially if replicated more times and on a larger scale. Larger production companies, particularly the big five, have dominated the market in the past. But, if they do not change their practices to match the changing views of the consumers, they may not be so dominant in the future. In the 2010’s there were over 230 bean-to-bar craft chocolate makers, and increased demand among consumers for these products (Martin, 2019). The future of chocolate is looking brighter thanks to the innovations of bean-to-bar chocolate producers. Due to the sustainable practices of these companies, the big five are being forced to change the way their companies operate. They are facing enormous social and environmental pressure to become more sustainable, as well as economic pressures. In “Sweetness and Power” by Mintz, it is suggested that companies will change their practices if it means economic benefits (Mintz, 1986). In the 1840’s when slavery and protectionism collided with needs to compete in a widening market, free-trade advocates and government’s motives saw eye to eye as interests aligned. When it means staying competitive in the market, companies will change their practices. Companies will seek economic benefits, and if moving to sustainable practices will attract more consumers, then it is an advantage for all involved. An example of this is Mars, who are now investing more than $1 billion to make a more sustainable cacao supply chain (Mars, 2019). Originally, the company was not founded as a social enterprise, as seen in the Brenner reading (Brenner, 2000). But, due to social and environmental pressures for more sustainable cacao practices, the nature of cacao production is changing (Brenner, 2000). Eventually all companies will have to do the same to stay competitive in the chocolate market. Small companies are leading the charge for social change, and the big companies must keep up. However, the positive changes in the production of cacao does not end here. The second point we will discuss is how the United Nations chocolate is changing the way we view chocolate as a commodity.

2. United Nations chocolate made for a mission

The United Nations has created its own chocolate bar which is available at various locations, in the hope of addressing both economic and environmental problems. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) has initiated this project. By making chocolate available in United Nations wrapping makes it clear that cacao and chocolate bar production is a global social issue, not just another food. It all began with nine-year-old Felix Finkbeiner from Germany, who founded the organisation, Plant for the Planet, announced his vision to his class at the end of one of his presentations.

“Children could plant one million trees in every country on the earth and thereby offset CO2 emissions all on their own, while adults are still talking about doing it.” – Felix Finkbeiner.

He made this vision a reality, and went on to partner with Patricia Espinosa, who is currently serving as the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.Together, they created a vision for the United Nations to create its own chocolate bar to be sold in the market. However, this was not just an ordinary chocolate bar, for it encapsulates the essence of how the chocolate industry should be developing.

This bar really brings together the two narratives of production. While the appealing wrapper and delicious taste of the smooth, milky bar tells the romanticised version of chocolate, it encapsulates the story of slavery, and simultaneously fights for justice. 

Image 7: United Nations Chocolate 

It is one of the first chocolate bar purely focused on sustainable farming practices, and bringing together the two narratives we have discussed. This production line is setting the standard for how sustainable practices should look. Chocolats halba produces this chocolate, and as seen in their mission statement, their ideals align closely with the goals of the UNDP, which is what makes it an appropriate company to produce this chocolate:

“Chocolats Halba has a clear ethos of generating added value for all stakeholder groups along its value chain – from cocoa farmers to consumers. To achieve this, it pursues a sustainability strategy that applies to all core areas of the business and to all employees. We received the Swiss Ethics Award in 2018 for our commitment to sustainability. The price of the chocolate bar will reflect its impact on the ecosystem and the real costs of production and export. The profits will be shared fairly, with farmers receiving a significantly greater share than through any other method.” – Chocolat Halba.

The production of this bar marries the two separate narratives told. By having chocolate wrapped in United Nations packaging – an organization which aims to fight injustices in the world – shows to consumers that this is a social issue which must be addressed, and is being addressed now in many different forms.

3. Education and broadening discussions about cacao and chocolate production

Finally, education and the broader discussion about chocolate is changing the way people think about chocolate, and influencing the way people choose to purchase and enjoy their chocolate.

Our class is a prime example of this broadening education, including the panels and speakers we have heard from, and the work they are doing beyond the classroom. In the past, people were unaware of how chocolate was actually made, hence people were less educated and less was being done to prevent this kind of suffering, particularly for children. The contemporary state of cacao production is therefore heading in a positive direction, and rapidly evolving, so it is important that we stay educated and up to date to make good decisions about future steps in this industry. Current literature, such as the Berlan article we read in this course, is addressing issues in slave labour, and identifying what we do and don’t know. If this type of research continues, we will be able to gain a greater understanding of the nuances and myriad of complex issues which allow slave labour to continue (Berlan, 2013), and through a better understanding we will be able to address these issues thoughtfully and properly. 

In this class alone, the students have completed 39 hours of class time each, and combined, written approximately 6 books worth of information about chocolate (Martin, 2019). Furthermore, the teaching staff has completed about 750 words of written feedback for each student, teaching the students about this topic beyond what they knew before. This is about 120,000 words of written feedback for the class, all of which has developed the overall knowledge of this topic in the world (Martin, 2019). With such a diverse class, we will be able to take this knowledge to the various fields we go into in the future, while being conscious consumers and teaching others what we know. The impact of this class goes far beyond the classroom, and is a big step in the right direction for closing the gap between the two narratives of chocolate theta have existed in the past. And this is in one course alone. In the past, this type of education simply did not exist. Through education and the broadening discussion of cacao production, we are changing the way that we think about chocolate production. The idea of chocolate is changing for the better, and we should be incredibly excited about this positive trajectory. 

Overall, the future of sustainable chocolate practices is looking very positive. Through bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturers, the United Nations chocolate bar, and education, the two narratives of cacao are coming together to tell a more accurate story of production. The conditions for workers on cacao farms are improving due to these companies, research, and education, and this will likely continue to improve in the future.

References:

Berlan, Amanda. 2013. “Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana.” pp. 1088-1100 


Brenner, Joel. 2000. The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars. chapters 5, 13 pp. 49-69, 179-194

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. 2007[1996]. The True History of Chocolate.

Martin, Carla. 2019. Harvard University Lectures from Course: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food.

Mintz, Sydney W. 1986[1985]. Sweetness and Power.          


Mars. 2019. Saving Tomorrow’s Cocoa, Today. Cocoa for Generations. Retrieved from https://www.mars.com/news-and-stories/cocoa-farming-sustainability

Image Links:

Image 1: Big Five Chocolate Producers

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1p2hW-YsJ6faWMHz0rYuRjFGfTurfgjCDDGSRnzn_Sn4/edit#slide=id.g2f058252d_2_56

Image 2: Golden Tree Ghana

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1iUp0kTTeUJ0qKN7Q-K7_f9EnZ5VdayRga2PynV0W-W8/edit#slide=id.g10e64a5659_2_93

Image 3: Raaka Wrapper (taken by Sarah Tisdall) 

Image 4: Madacasse Chocolate

Image 5: French Broad Chocolates

Image 6: Dandelion Chocolates

Image 7: United Nations Chocolate

Quotes:

Chocolat Halba – http://chocolatshalba.ch/en/sustainability/sustainability-core-principles.html

Felix Finkbeiner – https://www.plant-for-the-planet.org/en/about-us/who-we-are-2

Madacasse – https://madecasse.com/direct-trade/

Raaka – https://www.raakachocolate.com/pages/transparent-trade

“Sustainable” Chocolate

What Does it Mean to be Sustainable?

Today, many companies use the term “sustainable” to describe their products or their industry. But what does it mean to be sustainable? The term is used so often that the significance has become ambiguous. According to John C. Long, the former Vice President of Corporate Affairs for Hershey’s and 2008 chairman emeritus of the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), – he served as a representative for Hershey’s despite his retirement from the company earlier in that year – the definition of sustainability was not just ambiguous for the consumer but for the company, as well. In his article published in Wiley InterScience, From Cocoa to CSR: Finding Sustainability in a Cup of Hot Chocolate, Long states that “sustainability covers such a wide range of areas touching on all aspects of business…[it’s] hard to know where to begin” (Long 316). However, one thing is clear, Long says: “…sustainability is directly related to being able to succeed as individual businesses and industries” (Long 316). Therefore, if sustainability is tied with success, then there should be a definite definition. With the “heightened level of attention” surrounding sustainability, one would think that the definition would be exactly the same across all industries or companies within the same industry; and yet, Long, a former executive of one of the largest chocolate companies in the world, is clear that this is not the case: “…the definitions range from a narrow focus on preserving natural resources and the environment to broader quality-of-life visions encompassing economic opportunity, diversity, and access to health care” (Long 316). In either perspective, sustainability should theoretically lead to the betterment of the world and society. However, this has not been the case for the cocoa industry due to a variety of different issues: lack of understanding of the meaning and requirements to effectively create a plan for a more sustainable industry.

“[it’s] hard to know where to begin” (Long 316)

The Rise in Sustainability “Awareness”

With increased consumer awareness of the concept of sustainability, companies such as Hershey Co. were quick to react and offer a plan. This concept of “‘doing well by doing good’” was quickly adopted into “mainstream business practice” (Long 315). By 2008, a survey found that “47.7 percent of companies considered sustainability and corporate responsibility an important driver of innovation” (Bonn and Fisher 5). This means that nearly 50% of companies – not specifically in the cocoa industry – found sustainability to be “an important driver of innovation” and yet there was not a definition that thoroughly explained what this concept meant in relation to industries.

According to Dr. Ingrid Bonn – Associate Professor of Strategy at the School of Business, Bond University – and Dr. Jose Fisher – Associate Professor of Management at the School of Business, University of New England, Australia –  “becoming a sustainable organization is a long and arduous process” that requires “continuous capability building and management attention and the need to integrate all sustainability initiatives so they they form a cohesive whole” (Bonn and Fisher 12). However, they also recognize that a large part in being effectively sustainable comes from the true understanding that there are three components: environmental, economic and social sustainability. This highly contrasts from Long’s claim that sustainability is a “focus on preserving natural resources” or “improving quality-of-life” (Long 316). This highlights the problem, primarily within the cocoa industry, which focuses on just one aspect of sustainability, rather than all three. Therefore, companies such as Hershey Co. cannot claim to be fully sustainable if their focus lies solely in one of the three pillars of sustainability – as shown in Figure 1 above.

Sustainability in the Cacao Industry

With the clarification as to what it means to be sustainable, it is important to analyze how this is evident within a specific industry – the cacao industry. In 2008, Long blamed the lack of a unanimous definition across the cocoa industry on the lack of effective plans in countries such as Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Despite this awareness of the problem, this issue has continued throughout the years. In a short documentary by Al Jazerra English – as found on Youtube – reporter Nazanine Moshiri travels to the Ivory Coast in 2011 to highlight the conditions of the cocoa farmers. Her interview with some of the farmers reveals that even on a fair-trade certified farm, the government should regulate and fix the price of cocoa to be $1.50 per kilogram. However, buyers usually show no respect for this price and often pay only a little over a dollar per kilogram (Al Jazerra English). Because of this, farmers are not making a profit and are forced to abandon their farms or plant other supplies, which then leads to an increase in the price of cacao. This would then impact the consumer who would have to pay more for the luxury of their chocolate bar. As a result, companies have created a series of plans to improve the conditions within the cocoa industry to ensure that the price of chocolate remains low for their consumer and improves the livelihood of farmers. (For more information, please refer to the video below.)

The Cocoa Farmer

Education and Resources

In order to come up with a plan, companies needed to follow the same path as Nazanine Moshiri did as a reporter: investigate the conditions on the farms. Most of these investigations were conducted in West Africa, where “70 percent of cocoa is produced on small family farms” (Houston and Wryer). In regions such as Ghana or the Ivory Coast, farmers have a “limited access to resources” and a “multitude of social issues, such as low levels of adult literacy…and lack of quality education” (Houston and Wryer). These issues worsen when the price of cacao lowers or when farmers have “low yields attributed to pests, aging trees, and diseases that attack the trees” (Houston and Wryer). While pesticides and fertilizer could increase the yields of cacao, thus increasing the amount the cacao farmer gets paid – as their income stems from their cacao yield – farmers are unfamiliar with “modern farming techniques” (Houston and Wryer). Despite the possibility of increasing resources for farmers – which could create an environmentally sustainable farm – the “low levels of adult literacy” makes it hard for cocoa farmers to effectively learn how to use these supplies or “modern farming techniques” (Houston and Wryer). This proves that without a focus on social sustainability to improve the conditions and education of the cocoa farmers, there cannot be environmental or economic sustainability.

“Multitude of social issues, such as low levels of adult literacy…and lack of quality education” (Houston and Wryer)

In order to come up with a plan, companies needed to follow the same path as Nazanine Moshiri did as a reporter: investigate the conditions on the farms. Most of these investigations were conducted in West Africa, where “70 percent of cocoa is produced on small family farms” (Houston and Wryer). In regions such as Ghana or the Ivory Coast, farmers have a “limited access to resources” and a “multitude of social issues, such as low levels of adult literacy…and lack of quality education” (Houston and Wryer). These issues worsen when the price of cacao lowers or when farmers have “low yields attributed to pests, aging trees, and diseases that attack the trees” (Houston and Wryer).

Simplistic Solutions

Despite the complexity of this issue, some of the biggest companies in the chocolate industry create simplistic solutions. This mostly stems from the lack of a concise definition among these organizations and a lack of focus on all three components (environmental, economic, and social) that make up sustainability. Kerstin Roos critiques this by highlighting the supposed solution that “farmers need only increase productivity” (Roos 5). She points out that “poverty has many dimensions” (Roos 5). T

The reality is that a solution that “increase[s] productivity” cannot target “chronic poverty, child labor, soil degradation and deforestation” without analyzing the root causes of each issue. She continues her argument by stating that increasing productivity is not enough and “development based on growth actually creates more inequalities” (Roos 7). This perception that growth, or productivity, can reduce poverty is reflects a misunderstanding that  “all people benefit when the economy grows” (Roos 5). Therefore, simple stating that sustainability is achieved through increasing productivity reflects a genuine lack of understanding; in fact, it also reflects a lack of planning that will only impact the top layer of a deep rooted issue.

Rapid Solutions

To continue this point, it is important to point out that the simple solution of increasing productivity not only stems from a lack of understanding as to what sustainability needs and requires, but also from a lack of organization and planning. In other words, companies were quick to respond to the “heightened level of attention” surrounding sustainability with a simplified plan that was rather ambiguous in nature (Long 316). The simplified response was a direct result of a company’s rapid timing to provide a solution to target deep issues. John C. Long also criticizes this by highlighting that solutions for problems as big as child labor, poverty, and low yields of cacao do not result from quick-timed responses: “It doesn’t happen by itself, and it doesn’t happen overnight” (Long 317). Long, having been an employee of Hershey Co., recognizes that companies such as Hershey Co. have been guilty of simplifying a large scale problem. However, he is also quick to point out this is issue is larger than just one company. In fact, even if one company recognizes all three pillars of sustainability and takes the time to investigate and create a thorough plan, “it does not happen by itself” (Long 317). In a billion dollar industry, “corporations cannot address the challenges of ensuring a truly sustainable supply chain without working in partnership within their particular industry” (Long 317). In other words, in order to create a sustainable industry, there needs to be systematic change that occurs not only within the governments of the countries in which the cacao farms are located, but within the companies themselves.

“It doesn’t happen by itself, and it doesn’t happen overnight” (Long 317)

Current Conditions and Failed Plans

Without this systematic change that spreads through the entire industry, sustainability efforts will continue to fail. In a news article for Candy Industry, a magazine that provides “in-depth news analysis and comprehensive profiles” of the candy industry, Crystal Lindell – Editor for Candy Industry – provides a detailed report on the failed efforts within the chocolate industry. Her piece titled, Cocoa Sustainability: Goals shift to 2025, she presents coverage of the 2018 Cocoa Barometer – “a biennial review of the state of sustainability in the cocoa sector” (Lindell). Lindell selects certain portions of the report that she deems important to analyze including the following:

  • “More than ninety percent of West Africa’s original forests are gone” (Lindell)
  • “Child labor remains at very high levels in the cocoa sector, with an estimated 2.1 million children working in cocoa fields in the Ivory Coast and Ghana alone” (Lindell)

Without this systematic change that spreads through the entire industry, sustainability efforts will continue to fail. In a news article for Candy Industry, a magazine that provides “in-depth news analysis and comprehensive profiles” of the candy industry, Crystal Lindell – Editor for Candy Industry – provides a detailed report on the failed efforts within the chocolate industry. Her piece titled, Cocoa Sustainability: Goals shift to 2025, she presents coverage of the 2018 Cocoa Barometer – “a biennial review of the state of sustainability in the cocoa sector” (Lindell). Lindell selects certain portions of the report that she deems important to analyze including the following:

She raises criticism by making evident that “…efforts in the cocoa industry to improve the lives of farmers…are having little impact” (Lindell). In fact, the “proposed solutions do not even come close to addressing the scale of the problem” (Lindell). This is a direct consequence of the lack of planning and understanding surrounding sustainability. The irony within this fact stems from the knowledge that companies have the investigative research and information to make a change- as proven by Long’s statements in 2008. The fact that it has been over ten years since Long released his journal on sustainability and the need for change within the industry, reflects the ineffectiveness of the efforts made by the companies – even Hershey Co.

“…companies have the investigative research and information to make a change”

New Proposal, New Solutions

That being said, there are solutions that – if applied to the entire industry – can make an impact. Lindell continues in her coverage by highlighting the goals that should be achieved by 2025 that starts with an increase in “urgency and ambition to reflect the scale of the problems” (Lindell). By simplifying solutions down to measuring productivity, the industry will not be fixed. More awareness and a grasp on the meaning of sustainability could bring an end to an issue that has plagued the cocoa industry for decades. Because of this Lindell recognizes the complexity of issue at hand: “…sustainable cocoa is not an easy fix” (Lindell). The fact that this issue is difficult, however, should not deter companies; rather, the urgency for sustainability should serve as an incentive – just as the companies claimed productivity should incentivize the cocoa farmers.

Consumer Awareness

Despite the failed efforts to achieve sustainability, one thing is clear: the consumer has a direct impact on the industry. While some may read this and choose to boycott chocolate all-together, this does not have to the case. In fact, this may hurt the industry even more and take away the small income the cacao farmers make. This does mean that consumers should be more aware of where their chocolate comes from and what the labels on chocolate bars mean; as consumers, we should also be aware of what it means to be sustainable and whether or not a company knows and reflects this policy.

With an industry with expected sales “to reach $225 billion by 2025,” the need for systemic change is necessary more today than ever before (Roos 32). The increase in profits are not reflected in the incomes of cocoa farmers, who make up “5 million households that farm cocoa” and rely on it for “60 to 90 percent of their income” (Houston and Wryer). In 2017 alone, the prices in cacao dropped and farmers saw “incomes drop by 30-40%” (Roos 3). All of these numbers reflect just how unequal the playing field is between the industry and big companies in relation to the cacao farmers.

Chocolate is not just a guilty pleasure in regards to health, as some might think, but in the impact it holds. As consumers, we can choose to be aware of our own impact on the “economies of developing countries” and advocate for more to be done. Current sustainability plans have not abolished child labor, unstable incomes, environmental diseases, and more. This should be enough incentive to make a change for the “better livelihoods at the farm level, increased resources and investment at the national level, and a safer, more secure environment for smallholder farmers that supply the bulk of coca production for the world’s consumers” (Houston and Wryer). As consumers, we are directly involved in the efforts made for sustainability. The problem cannot be simplified, but the first step comes in adopting a uniform definition for sustainability that recognizes the three pillars: economic, environmental, social. By taking this definition as using it as the foundation to take the time and create a thorough plan, there can finally be a sustainable cocoa industry. Until then, a true sustainable chocolate bar or company simply does not exist.

Sources

Scholarly Articles

Bonn, Ingrid, and Josie Fisher. “Sustainability: the Missing Ingredient in Strategy.” The Journal of Business Strategy, vol. 32, no. 1, 2011, pp. 5–14.

Houston, Holly, and Terry Wyer. “Why Sustainable Cocoa Farming Matters for Rural Development.” Why Sustainable Cocoa Farming Matters for Rural Development | Center for Strategic and International Studies, Center for Strategic and International Studies, 6 Sept. 2012, http://www.csis.org/analysis/why-sustainable-cocoa-farming-matters-rural-development.

Long, J. C. (2008). From cocoa to CSR: Finding sustainability in a cup of hot chocolate. Thunderbird International Business Review, 50(5), 315. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/10.1002/tie.20215

Roos, Kerstin, “Cacao Together: A Model for True Sustainability in the Chocolate Industry” (2018). Capstone Collection. 3138. https://digitalcollections.sit.edu/capstones/3138

Multimedia Sources

News Articles

English, Al Jazeera. “Ivory Coast’s Bittersweet Cocoa Industry.” YouTube, YouTube, 13 Dec. 2011, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qA-dm0TSmpk.

Lindell, Crystal. “Cocoa Sustainability: Goals Shift to 2025; Cocoa Suppliers and Manufacturers Made Big Promises for Sustainability Efforts That Mostly Come Due in 2020–but as the Deadline Gets Closer Many Are Now Looking to 2025.” Candy Industry, vol. 183, no. 11, 2018, p. 18.

Images

Figure 1: KTucker. “Nested Sustainability.” Wikimedia Commons, Wikipedia, 19 Oct. 2011, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nested_sustainability-v2.svg.

Figure 2: “Sustainable Cacao Farming.” Chocolate Connoisseur, Google, http://www.chocolateconnoisseurmag.com/corruption-in-the-chocolate-chain-deadly-deforestation-and-cacao-part-two/sustainable-cacao-farming/.

Figure 3: Kirubi, Mwangi. “Cocoa Farmer Ghana.” Flickr, 25 May 2017, flic.kr/p/2ahtX3d.

Figure 4: “Cocoa farming holding collection of fermented cacao beans in both hands while surrounded by cacao beans in the background.” UVM Bored, Google, https://uvmbored.com/event/presentation-the-cocoa-campaign/

Figure 5: Neptune, Bobby. “Turning Cocoa Beans into Chocolate.” Flickr, 4 Dec. 2013, https://flic.kr/p/jy7EfA

Corporate Social Responsibility Within the Chocolate Industry: Analyzing Nestlé

In an era where small batch chocolate producers have already taken effective steps in creating a more sustainable and equitable chocolate supply chain, larger corporations have also begun to take up the mantle and move in a positive direction. The large players in the chocolate market are perhaps the most crucial to making significant improvements to the system of the cacao production. Companies like Nestle have started focusing on sustainability, beginning to finally look at some of the core issues behind cacao sourcing. In analyzing the sustainability section in Nestlé’s annual report, I aim to evaluate their success in becoming a solution to the problems of the cacao-chocolate supply chain.

Creating Shared Value

Corporate Social Responsibility is a form of self-regulating business model that aims to create positive social and environmental impacts through managing shared risks and creating shared opportunities. It goes beyond just compliance and corporate philanthropy. Nestle seems to have a solid conceptual understanding of effective corporate social responsibility, stating a clear goal of ‘creating shared value’. While they still have a lot more room to make actual improvements in their supply chain and production, Nestlé still stands as a good example to begin leading other companies in the right direction.

The most salient and material risks I see for Nestle as a business are nutrition, rural development, human rights, and climate change. Several of these issues are ethical issues we’ve talked about in class and all of them have been touched on in their sustainability report. The fact that Nestlé recognizes such issues is a strong success in itself, but Nestle could be more effective in taking action on their goals.

Nutrition

Nutrition is a salient goal for Nestle because of the increases in obesity and other health problems among adults. In sweetness and power, Mintz argues that the desirability of sugar confronts the costs it poses to health and world systems. Sugar consumption has increased by 50% since the 1970s, and is a cause of increasing dietary problems. A large majority of Nestle products are high in sugar, making this one of the issues that core to their business and therefore most important to address in an actionable way. There is also a material opportunity for Nestle in this issue; There is a growing consumer base looking for healthier foods. Nestle acknowledges this in their own report, referencing a value add for investors of selling healthier options. The legitimacy of addressing this problem is validated by its inclusion into their strategic initiatives, but Nestlé could perhaps make it more core to their business strategy.

They mention multiple examples of new healthy offerings, but could use more work in increasing the healthiness of existing products. Most Nestle products still contain very high amounts of sugar and they only give anecdotal evidence of examples of sugar reduction. For example, on their website under the “Our Impact” tab, they discuss having already decreased the sugar content of the KitKat and plans to reduce the sugar content of it even further. To truly create value for a consumer base that is eating too much sugar, making more major changes to existing products is necessary in addition to just taking advantage of the material opportunity of providing new healthy options. Yet these small steps are important in leading large corporations towards making real changes to our system of sugar consumption. It proves that companies can still be economically successful even as they take steps to create a more sustainable relationship with their customers.

Social Inequality

Rural development and poverty reduction is another issue at the core of ethical considerations within the chocolate supply chain. Rural farmers receive only a fraction of the profits from chocolate production. They are in fact “the most poorly compensated for their efforts,” especially in relation to the amount of effort contributed (Leissle 129). The largest share of profits is 44.2% which goes to retailers, while only 6.6% goes to the farmers themselves (Leissle 129).

This issue of rural development and poverty reduction is touched on by Nestlé but perhaps more superficially than is necessary to affect the entire system of chocolate production. As one of the top three chocolate producers in the world, they have the ability to affect approximately 10% of chocolate sourcing (Statista 2016). As one of these top companies, taking charge to reduce inequity would force the hand of other chocolate companies to do the same. Instead, Nestlé emphasizes inconsequential initiatives like using cage free eggs and broadly touch on “responsible sourcing” in the major summary areas on “adding value to communities”. This in in lieu of talking about the fact that cacao farmers receive less than 10% of the profits from production. Nestle responds only to the material as opposed to salient points of the issue by creating training for farmers in order to achieve more effective cacao growth. Nestle could do a lot more to achieve higher percentages of responsibly sourced cacao and other raw materials.

Outside of their annual report, sustainability report, and information on the impact tab of their website, Nestlé has a separate website explaining their cacao plan. This plan explains the future goals Nestlé has for continuing to combat the inherent inequality in the supply chain. It points to solid initiatives of funding a co-op system that offers a higher premium for cacao to the farmers. This is an effective program but they could learn from small, mission focused chocolate companies to make such a system cover 100% of the cacao they source (as opposed to the portion it covers currently).

There are other problems within the supply chain as well. Human rights is an extremely important issue within Nestlé’s supply chain. Specifically, there is a salient issue of child labor within cacao supply chains. Carol Off references child slavery in the chocolate supply chain by explaining that “boys, some as young as nine, were working on farms where they had no relatives… [and] they weren’t being paid” (Off 121). There has been some success in combatting some of the more obvious forms of child labor, but without being paid enough for their beans, children often join in helping their families out of obligation and necessity. Again, Nestlé does a good job realizing the issue and drawing attention to it, recognizing that this salient risk is becoming more material to them as information becomes more readily globalized to their consumers. Despite this, their proposed plan addressing child labor is not comprehensive and the flier focusing on reducing child labor is highly focused on numbers of children, not percentages, which is very worrying. Nestlé is taking the right steps but similar to the community equity problems, they need to focus on higher percentages of responsibly sourced cacao.

Slide From Nestlé’s Tackling Child Labor Report

In general, Nestlé is very effective at realizing its most salient issues and creating ambitious and actionable goals to alleviate them by finding material opportunities. While their reporting is specific enough to lead to effective goals, Nestlé could increase its legitimacy by taking more immediate action towards those long term goals. They show strides in year over year growth but lack a comprehensive year over year plan. Nestle provides concrete improvements in the CSR space that can be compared to other companies within the food/beverage sphere, but even at the top of their class they ignore major issues by glossing over them with broad language and abstract intermediate goals.

Despite the need for continued improvement in sustainability strategy, I still feel that Corporate Social Responsibility has the opportunity to transform the cacao industry into a more positive space for all stakeholders involved. Small bean-to-bar chocolate companies are great examples of how companies can achieve a double bottom line of economic and social success, but they cannot change the system alone. Large corporations must begin to carry some of the burden through the process of creating shared value, a framework laid out by the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human rights. These frameworks lie outside of direct legislation but instead allow large companies to take some of the burden in fixing the critical problems within the cacao supply chain.

Work Cited

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018. 

Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of The World’s Most Seductive Sweet. The New Press, 2006.

 “How Sugar Consumption Is Changing America [INFOGRAPHIC].” Avail Clinical Research, 28 July 2014, www.availclinical.com/news/sugar-rush-how-sugar-consumption-is-changing-america-infographic/.

“U.S. Adult Consumption of Added Sugars Increased by More than 30% over Three Decades.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 4 Nov. 2014, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141104141731.htm.

 “Chocolate Companies: Market Share Worldwide 2016.” Statista, 2016, http://www.statista.com/statistics/629534/market-share-leading-chocolate-companies-worldwide/.

Links

“Home.” Nestle Cocoa, http://www.nestlecocoaplan.com/.

Nestle.com, www.nestle.com/csv.

Annual Review 2018. 2018, http://www.nestle.com/asset-library/documents/library/documents/annual_reports/2018-annual-review-en.pdf.

Snickers, Who They Are When They’re Hungry

The World’s Best Selling Chocolate Bar,

https://www.thedrum.com/news/2015/07/01/mars-global-cmo-expecting-brand-love-step-too-far-consumers

Snickers is the one of the top selling candies around the world. According to a 2015 report, Snickers sold approximately 405.3 million units and generated a revenue of $386.2 million.[1] Snickers is one of the many candy brands under the Mars Wrigley Confectionery (Mars) umbrella. As one of Mars’ most successful candies, Snickers serves as an indicator about the extent in which Mars is a responsible chocolate manufacturer.

In the analysis it will show how Mars does not commit to the five principles it has set out for itself. From its level of sustainability to the advertisement campaigns it has distributed over the years, Mars has not demonstrated the industry leading ideals it claims to uphold in its company, a company that sells its products to more than 180 countries. Mars neglects its responsibility as a world leading producer of chocolate, and looking through the lens of the “world’s best-selling candy bar” will reveal areas of much improvement. As a company that looks to constantly grow, and appears to have an unceasing appetite, much like the subjects of one of its advertisements (seen below), it appears that it will cut corners and feed into false and dangerous stereotypes in order to satisfy that hunger. As their famous ad campaign popularly coined, “Snickers, you’re not you when you’re hungry.”

[1] CNBC, The Daily Meal. “America’s Favorite Chocolate Candies.” Fox News, FOX News Network, 2018, http://www.foxnews.com/food-drink/americas-favorite-chocolate-candies.

“Satisfying your hunger”,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_NC0f1nvEz8

Snickers’ Mission

According to Mars before any decision is made they consider 5 key principles: Quality of work and contributions to society, Responsibility (as individuals and a company) to act now, Mutuality of benefit to their stakeholders, Efficiency to use their resources to maximum effect, Freedom to make their own decisions.[1] As a company that has been around for more than 100 years, it seems obvious that it would be able to hold itself to such high ideals and still experience high levels of success. However, as will be revealed, their desire to benefit stakeholders seems to be their strongest decider.

An important point of emphasis for Mars in order to seek higher revenues for their iconic candy bars is through their advertisements. No matter how great a candy bar is, people still need to want to buy it. James Miller, global head of strategy for Mars at BBDO, an advertising company, revealed what made their six-year ad campaign so effective. Miller attributed the success of the campaign to the fame it was able to attribute through expert commercials and recognizable celebrities, such as Betty White, Aretha Franklin, and Rowan Atkinson who portrays his famous character Mr. Bean.

[1] https://www.mars.com/about/five-principles


Mr. Bean TV Advertisement,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qIVDxL2lgN4

Miller speaks extensively about where Snickers was lacking in its public persona, and how the people of BBDO looked to help Mars boost Snickers market share and retain its throne on top of the chocolate bar industry.

Miller, unsurprisingly, leaves out numerous examples of the ways in which Snickers and other chocolate manufacturers have attempted to sell their chocolate in racially and heterosexually charged ways.

Advertisements

Snickers’ Fumble on Superbowl Sunday

In 2007 Snickers released a commercial during Super Bowl XLI that was met with strong criticism from many LGBTQ advocacy groups.

Snickers Super Bowl XLI Commercial,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8XbTsbkwII

The commercial was accompanied by footage released on Snickers’ website that showed professional football players reacting to the actions in the commercial. The excuse for the content of the commercial was to “capture the attention of Snickers’ core consumers.”[1] Correctly identified by the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, the suggestion that in order to be a man does not include kissing other men is completely reprehensible. The assertion that “core” Snickers consumers enjoyed the commercial completely alienates people of the LGBTQ community that may have enjoyed Snickers, and feeds into the ostracizing of people that identify as LGBTQ.

Unfortunately, in the chocolate industry the form of feminizing chocolate and the association of hetero-female sexuality is not a new phenomena. Though two men kissing is no less manly than whatever acts are considered manly, such as working on a car or causing physical pain to another man, Snickers looked to feminize the two men that accidentally kissed, claiming that such an action is not manly. Emma Robertson in Chocolate, Women, and Empire  identifies the early marketing of chocolate as being something that women consume and is reserved for heterosexual people.[2] The images of elegant women being courted by men were common images seen in advertising. However, the images and sexualization of women as it pertained to chocolate transformed into chocolate turning men to be “women-like” and, according to Snickers,  making men momentarily lose their sense of manhood.

How would portraying that message be quality a quality contributor to society? How would mocking the idea of men kissing, and isolating LGBTQ members be responsibly? With those heavy questions, one would imagine Snickers would not be such a tasteless decision twice. Think again. 


[1] Clark, Amy. “Snickers ‘Kiss’ Super Bowl Ad Pulled.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 11 Jan. 2013, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/snickers-kiss-super-bowl-ad-pulled/.

[2] Robertson, Emma. 2010. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History.

Getting Racial

One of Snickers’ latest commercials features singer-songwriter Elton John and rapper Anthony “Boogie” Dixson. The seemingly light-hearted transformation of an iconic pop star turned gritty rapper via Snickers has many racial implications that spans the chocolate confectionery market.

“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, Snickers ,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QO2qHuEs80Q

A close viewing of the commercial reveals many aspects that are racially charged. The setting of a lower-income household typically seen in the Los-Angeles suburban/urban areas is surrounded by typical scenery in many LA-based films. Individuals are casually dressed participating in different leisurely activities. When entering the household the viewer is met by the image of a group of people, mostly black, viewing a rap battle. The first person viewers see engaging in the battle is a black man dawning dread locks, and the crowd is reacting positively to his insults of the other participant. As the battle transitions to the other participant the viewer sees Elton John, an openly gay white-English performer, dressed in his typical flashy clothing. Predictably, as Elton John begins to sing one of his hit singles “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” the crowd reacts unfavorably. As expected Elton John is offered a Snickers to satisfy his apparent hunger and be the type of person that would fit into that sort of setting. With one bite of the Snickers Elton Johns turns into a straight black-American man, with the grittiness to fit into that environment.

There are many aspects to unpack in the commercial, but the three that are the most apparent are sexual orientation, race, and economic status. As unpacked before, the assertion that a gay person engaging in a seemingly manly or gritty activity is outside of their character is, again, an antiquated belief in society. Though not an explicitly stated portion of the commercial, it is an underlying message that a person could readily identify. Another, implied aspect in the commercial is that of economic status. Though chocolate initially was marketed as an exotic luxury only to be enjoyed by those in the elite classes, as it was widely manufactured and available to those in middle and lower classes, its identity has changed. As in the commercial, Elton John, a highly recognizable performer of high society is found out of place in a low income community. With one bite of the Snickers Sir Elton John transforms into everday rapper Boogie, someone that appears to fit perfectly into the lower community. From the differences in speech to the differences in clothing, Snickers implies the type of person that belongs in that community, and the class of people that would/should enjoy their affordable product.

Lastly, the image of a white man turning into a black man is one of the more racist images portrayed in chocolate marketing. The parallel between blackness and chocolate was a common theme in many early advertisements.

Rowntree’s Honeybunch,
https://chocolateclass.wordpress.com/2015/04/09/no-more-misogynoir-challenging-the-problematic-depictions-of-african-women-in-chocolate-advertising/



Tying the image of a stereotypical black children using the characters of Honeybunch and Little Coco to chocolate was a common practice in the early to mid-20th Century. From the appearance of dark skin and big lips, to the manner of speech, the black caricature developed was a popular and highly recognizable image.[1] However, the otherness portrayed in the Snickers ad is not one trying to portray an exotic foreignness, rather a familiarity. The image of a black person in the ghetto is supposed to be familiar to the international public. The portrayal of living in a lower-income community is supposed to be portrayed as a cool or hip experience, something that one bite of chocolate can help you experience without facing the real-world implications of it.

The racial, socioeconomic, and heterosexual themes played out in Snickers’ advertisements are a distant reality from the Quality and Responsibility that Mars claims to uphold. In fairness, Snickers does have commercials and ad campaigns that due reach that ideal, but that does not excuse the areas in which it could use much improvement.


[1] Robertson, Emma. 2010. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History.

Sustainability

As company that looks to act responsibly and has the freedom to make sustainable decisions, Snickers is not looked on favorably as a sustainable product. According to rankabrand data collected in 2016, Snickers received a D grade in sustainability. Rankabrand uses 28 questions/qualifiers for a sustainable product, Snickers only satisfied 8 of the qualifiers. The qualifiers are grouped into categories of Climate Change/Carbon Emissions, Labor Conditions/Fairtrade, and Environmental Policy.[1]


[1] https://rankabrand.org/chocolate-brands/Snickers#detailed-report

Snickers Sustainability,

https://rankabrand.org/chocolate-brands/Snickers#detailed-report

Such a low grade proves that Mars’ proclaimed commitment to leading the industry in sustainability is not met by action. Sustainability is not just how much a brand claims to commit to change, but where its commitment is placed. Failing to use a significant amount of renewable energy, failing to ensure to buy their raw materials from plantations that are certified to not use child labor, and failing to commit to reducing its carbon footprint to a significant amount are large enough factors to conclude Snickers failure as a sustainable industry leading brand.

Conclusion

Mars has a long road ahead of it before it can claim being an industry leader in the chocolate manufacturing industry. The award winning ad campaign is littered with images and themes that are reminiscent of a racist and bigoted past. While making allowance for jokes and humor, the suggestion of otherness when in relation to sexual orientation, gender, or race is unacceptable. Tapping into prejudices to increase revenues is not being a company of quality or responsibility. As a company that aims to be sustainable it largely falls short of even being average. Snickers’ status of being an industry leader in popularity of product is indisputable, its stronghold of the chocolate bar market is squarely secured with very little challenge from any other brand. But to what cost does Snickers retain its throne, who is Snickers when it’s hungry? Apparently, it is a company that speaks boldly about innovation but whose actions reflect one of a selfish manufacturer that is only worried about its profit margins. It is a company that doesn’t insure its products are free of slavery, it doesn’t make sure that its impact on the planet is minimal, and feeds into antiquated and dangerous stereotypes.

Works Cited

Clark, Amy. “Snickers ‘Kiss’ Super Bowl Ad Pulled.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 11 Jan. 2013, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/snickers-kiss-super-bowl-ad-pulled/.

CNBC, The Daily Meal. “America’s Favorite Chocolate Candies.” Fox News, FOX News Network, 2018, http://www.foxnews.com/food-drink/americas-favorite-chocolate-candies.

Miller , James. “Case Study: How Fame Made Snickers’ ‘You’re Not You When You’re Hungry’ Campaign a Success.” Campaign US, 2016, http://www.campaignlive.com/article/case-study-fame-made-snickers-youre-not-when-youre-hungry-campaign-success/1413554.

Robertson, Emma. 2010. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History.

Chocolats Halba – Analysis of a Swiss Chocolate Company

This text investigates Chocolats Halba, a Swiss producer of chocolate, and its contributions to solving the various problems in the cacao industry. Founded by two chocolatiers working from their living room, this company is now a part of Coop, which is one of Switzerland’s largest retail companies. Chocolats Halba delivers its products both to Coop and to companies worldwide and also operates its own factory stores, the Schoggihüsli. The company is a rather large producer of bean-to-bar chocolate, making over twelve-thousand tons of chocolate per year and generating 135 million swiss francs in revenue from these efforts. It is thus a remarkable example of an essentially industrial producer of chocolate that nevertheless conforms to at least a reasonable moral standard. The company’s English website, containing further information and an introductory video, may be found at this address: http://chocolatshalba.ch/en/company.html (Chocolats Halba – Facts and Figures).

Chocolats Halba describes itself as a company that aims to provide benefit to both its customers, employees and also to the environment. More specifically, the company aims to both address the common human issues of cacao production in addition to, and to produce in an environmentally sustainable manner. To achieve this, the company is closely involved with all parts of its supply chain, performing extensive supervision. The stated benefits which the company seeks to obtain from this policy is to ensure that its products be morally responsible and superior in quality. As might be expected from a Swiss chocolate producer, quality in particular is a major part of the company’s brand image. Notably, to ensure quality, the company’s entire production capacity, and with it most of its employees, is based in Switzerland. To the same end, the company also maintains close relations with its associated cacao growers. The company’s position is also prominent on the packaging of its products, which notably bear information not only on the source of the cacao, but also on the origin of most other ingredients. The packaging also prominently displays information on the sustainability practices pursued in its production. Furthermore, the company’s chocolate also includes detailed information on the terroir and history of the specific cacao varieties it incorporates. The near profusion of labels and other information on the image below illustrates this point. In a similar effort to market its closeness to cacao growers, the company generally prominently incorporates imagery of these people in its packaging and marketing. (Chocolats Halba, Partners & Quality (http://chocolatshalba.ch (Retrieved 19-04-19)))

Information found on the back of a chocolate bar made by Chocolats Halba. It provides a detailed breakdown of the various ingredients and their origins and displays several labels. Also note how it emphasizes the “Swissness” of the product. Image Credit: Own Work

The policy of Chocolats Halba is to exclusively source its cacao from certified cooperatives, with which it cooperates closely, a list of which it also makes publicly available. Both to inform its own policies, and to inform its customers of the quality of its products, the company has also obtained nearly a dozen certifications, including UTZ, Fairtrade and Bio labels. Two of these, the Fairtrade and the Swiss Bio label, also directly feature on the packaging of many of the company’s products, as may be seen in the image above. The company applies these principles as well as the associated labels not only to its cacao, but to each of the ingredients it uses. The company’s strict adherence to these principles has also allowed it to feature prominently and positively in several recent rankings and has allowed it to win various Swiss and international awards. (Chocolats Halba, Certificates & Partners & Quality & News (http://chocolatshalba.ch (Retrieved 19-04-19)))

The main certifications used by this company remarkably closely echo some of the main ethical criteria for morally acceptable chocolate production. The main categories of such criteria might be said to be those of cacao farmers’ situation and that of sustainability. Both of these are complex issues, that cannot easily be addressed. As for workers’ rights, some of the main problems with cacao production are unfree labour, including that by children, and the low prices paid to cacao producers. The low prices paid for cacao by the world market, which are to no small degree an inheritance of colonialism underlie many of these issues. With low cacao prices, benefits accrue mainly to the consumers and retailers of chocolate; while troubles accrue to those who actually produce the cacao itself. Such troubles include the need to deploy cheap labour, which may be underpaid or even unfree: this is also a reason for child labour. However, simply paying more for chocolate, should one be willing to do so would not necessarily contribute to solving this problem. It would do so only if a significant part of the additional revenue thus generated would end up with the farmers. (Leissle, Cocoa, p. 128 – 131)

Various efforts to achieve this exist, including initiatives such as Fairtrade. Fairtrade offers benefits including price floors and communal funds for farmers’ communities. However, the Fairtrade label may be diluted in efficacy by the common practice of certifying only some ingredients, or only part of a whole. (Leissle, Cocoa, P. 144 – 146) As aforementioned, Chocolats Halba subscribes to the Fairtrade label, among others. It also does not in any way dilute the significance of this label; which applies to all ingredients it uses. Notably, the company also engages extensively in direct trade; a solution thus far engaged in by a limited number of chocolate manufacturers. Direct trade offers various unique benefits, with one of the most important being that it allows for a larger share of profit to be received by cacao growers instead of by middlemen. In case of this company, it also allows the possibility of informing consumers of a product’s terroir. The company makes extensive use of the opportunities this allows, as demonstrated by the information provided by the packaging material depicted below. (Leissle, Cocoa, P. 153 – 157) (Chocolats Halba, 2016 Report, Purchasing)

Information on the terroir of a chocolate’s cacao component provided on the packaging of a bar made by Chocolats Halba. This text also refers to the company’s environmental efforts, while emphasizing quality throughout. Image Credit: Own Work

As for sustainability, the main issues with chocolate production is that many of the crops involved in it are commonly produced in manners that are not particularly sustainable. Notably, the cultivation of many of these crops involves the sue of herbicides and pesticides and artificial fertilizers as well as extensive transportation before being processed in more energy-intensive processes. The production of sugar from sugarcane is an example, sugar being a ubiquitous ingredient in chocolate. The production of cane sugar is particularly onerous, being exhausting upon the soil and thus commonly leading to extensive deforestation. It is also energy-intensive to produce, requiring a long growing season and heavy irrigation along with extensive processing to finally produce sugar. (Mintz, Sweetness and Power, P. 19 – 21, 25)

While the production of cacao itself is somewhat less energy intensive, it too presents the issue of having to transport raw materials over often considerable distances to factories and from there to consumers. Likewise, though cacao is generally cultivated amongst other trees rather than in monoculture plantations, its production likewise often includes the use of various poisonous substances. Indeed, in many regions, extensive use of such substances is common, despite the environmental and medical hazards. (Coe, The True history of Chocolate, P. 263) In this field as well, Chocolats Halba pursues rather desirable goals, as demonstrated by its adherence to several standards for organic production, including the Canadian, American and Swiss standards of organic production. Adhering to these standards means to pursue methods of production that are in harmony with nature, which, translated into practice, means not using artificial fertilizers, herbicides and similar substances in production. Similarly, the company also makes all its packaging materials from FSC-certified or recycled paper.  (Chocolats Halba, Labels (http://chocolatshalba.ch (Retrieved 23-04-19)))

 In addition, the company also pursues carbon neutral methods of production. This involves actively keeping a tally of the emission involved in making a given product and avoiding these wherever possible, or if that cannot be done, to offset them instead. In the case of Chocolats Halba, offsetting emissions generally means the planting of hardwood trees, which is done in collaboration with he same cooperatives from which the company procures its raw materials. Apart from somewhat reducing environmental impact, an additional benefit of this approach is to improve the local environments of these cooperatives by increasing biodiversity and even offering a long-term source of income. This particular approach is a part of a unique project by the company which involves cultivating cacao as one of many crops on the same plot of land. These other crops include manioc, maize, bananas, sweet potatoes and hardwood trees. This “dynamic agroforestry” is supposed to increase both the local biodiversity and the variety of income sources, and hence financial security, available to the cultivator. This method is also supposed to be particularly compatible with the rather small land plots held by the majority of the members in the cooperatives that deal with the company. This method of cultivation also has the benefit of decreasing the proportion of the cacao crop that fails due to disease or other causes each year. This benefit mainly derives from how the more diverse environment provides superior conditions for cacao trees, including more shade and less likelihood of pest attacks due to the lower density of cacao trees. Hence, this method provides the dual benefits of an environmentally responsible mode of production combined with more security for workers. Chocolats Halba and its parent company have been promoting this method of production as an alternative to monoculture cultivation of work-intensive and environmentally depleting high-yield varieties. Further information on this method, as featured in one of the company’s reports may be found here: https://sustainability.chocolatshalba.ch/en/nhb2016/report.html. (Chocolats Halba, 2016 Report, Sustainability (https://sustainability.chocolatshalba.ch (Retrieved 25-04-19)))

The company also aims to keep its Switzerland-based chocolate production carbon neutral; and has generally succeeded decently at these efforts. For example, the company sources most of the energy it uses from natural gas and district heating. Meanwhile, the company’s new factory in Pratteln is notable for being equipped with a considerable surface worth of solar panels as well as the capability to reuse waste heat. These facilities also make almost exclusive use of less undesirable refrigerants such as ammonia and carbon dioxide. Similarly, the company also receives and makes most of its deliveries by rail to reduce transport-related emissions. As with the production of its raw materials, this company also aims to offset the emissions generated by its facilities in Switzerland. To this end, the company also engages in emissions trading, and has overseen the planting of a few hundred thousand trees. The result of these efforts is that the company has been operating climate-neutrally since 2011, according to some definitions. (Chocolats Halba, 2016 Report, Energy & Climate (https://sustainability.chocolatshalba.ch (Retrieved 25-04-19)))

To conclude, Chocolats Halba offers a remarkable example of a larger chocolate producer contributing positively both to improving workers’ situation and at making its products in a decently sustainable manner. Furthermore, the company not only provides one positive example, it also demonstrates that such positive effects may be achieved in relatively little time: this company’s practices were not particularly noteworthy in these regards until recently. In the last decade however, the company has made remarkable progress towards the goal of conforming to higher ethical standards, thus setting an example of how great progress may be made quickly by those willing to invest the effort. The company’s labelling efforts also demonstrate how producing chocolate in a sustainable and responsible manner may further serve as a successful marketing strategy . Thus, Chocolats Halba provides an example of how such practices can benefit both the company, the consumer and the producer in how they allow for superior products that come with greater transparency, at less cost.

Works Cited:

Multimedia Sources:

MJ, Image of the Rear of Chocolate Packaging of Chocolats Halba

MJ, Image of the Interior of Chocolate Packaging of Chocolats Halba


Raising the Bar with Tony’s Chocolonely

Seldom will the average consumer find a chocolate company as unique as Tony’s Chocolonely. From its irregularly divided bars representing the inequality in the chocolate industry, to its quirky name referencing the founder’s sense of solitude as a crusader against slavery in the industry, all of the company’s efforts aim for ethical reform through delicious chocolate. This Dutch company arose from the investigative journalism work of Teun “Tony” van de Keuken. After discovering the reality of slavery in the cocoa industry, Tony sought to tackle the issue himself. He realized the importance of consumer responsibility in reinforcing these industrial injustices, going so far as to “prosecute [him]self for buying and eating chocolate” that involved slavery in its production (Tony’s, “The Story”).

From chocolate conviction to confectionary: The ethical foundations of Tony’s Chocolonely.

The Mission

Thus, Tony’s Chocoloney was founded on the principle of producing completely “slave free chocolate” and influencing chocolate makers around the globe to follow suit. Its products, characterized by bright colors and eye-catching designs, are emblazoned with company’s mission: “Together we make 100% slave free the norm in chocolate” (Tony’s, Report 11).

This mission is not only applied toward its own products; Tony’s also aspires to elevate the worldwide chocolate industry to this same standard. Tony’s takes a holistic approach to transforming the chocolate industry from within. This begins with grassroots community efforts at the local farmer level, continues through to consumer transparency, and extends beyond to the global chocolate industry. Tony’s Chocolonely hopes to leverage its loyal customer base and prominence in the Dutch market to alleviate ethical issues in the global cacao-chocolate supply chain.

Tony’s dedication to ethical chocolate starts with the social and economic well-being of its cocoa farmers and continues through every ingredient and packaging material. These steps trace the company’s five sourcing principles for 100% slave free chocolate: traceable cocoa beans, higher prices, strong farmers, long-term sustainability, and improved quality and productivity.

The five sourcing principles, on display in Tony’s Chocotruck.

Reliable Relationships

Each of these social, economic, and political tactics is tailored to the key players in Tony’s chocolate supply chain: cocoa farmers, chocolate makers, stores, fans, and governments (Tony’s, Report 13). Beginning with the farmers, Tony’s has been strategic in choosing which cocoa-producing regions to work with. Rather than shying away from countries with severe social abuses in farming, the company has embraced them head-on. After discovering the prevalence of slavery in West Africa, Tony’s formed partnerships with five cocoa farming cooperatives in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. This direct contact with farmers at the local community level has been necessary to target the engrained unjust cultural practices. Tony’s works with farmers on a personal level to address social, financial, and educational issues. The company sources 100% of its cocoa beans from these five cooperatives, establishing balanced relationships through which it can introduce fundamental institutional changes. Tony’s engages in direct trade with these farmers, eliminating profits lost by the farmers to intermediaries in the supply chain. This direct contact also helps develop strong, stable long-term relationships that enable the cooperatives to grow and organize.

Principles Over Profits

Financial stability is one of the most pressing issues facing West African cocoa farmers. This problem has been poorly addressed in the chocolate industry due to incomplete or misdirected efforts. A popular suggestion involves paying higher prices for cocoa; however, this approach fails in many cases if the national government is the intermediary between the farmers and the global market, or if national policies incentivize the cultivation of other crops (Off 146, Martin slide 40). Cocoa farmers are paid the farm gate price for their beans, but this may not reflect the global market price. However, farmers can enhance their earnings through certification premiums. All of Tony’s cocoa farmers are Fairtrade certified; however, this still does not relieve them from financial insolvency. Due to its pervasiveness and widespread effects, poverty is Tony’s target and root cause of labor abuses.

Tony’s cocoa beans are Faitrade certified, so farmers receive both Fairtrade and Tony’s additional premiums.

Considering these challenges, Tony’s goal to pay farmers living wages—enough to hire adult workers and send their children to school—seems almost quixotic. To work towards this goal, the company has instituted an additional Tony’s premium that bypasses institutional middlemen and directly benefits farmers: “We pay the extra Tony’s premium straight to the cooperatives of our partner farmers, so not every link in the chain (such as local and international traders, cocoa processers or bar manufacturers) in the chocolate chain receives a percentage of this higher premium” (Tony’s, Report 27). During the 2017-2018 fiscal year, on top of the Fairtrade premium of $200 per metric ton, Tony’s paid an additional $400 per metric ton in the Ivory Coast and an additional $175 in Ghana (103). Thus, the cooperative farmers in the Ivory Coast received a payment 47% greater than the farm gate price; in Ghana, 21% greater (29). The additional Tony’s premium is also dynamic, taking into account the current cocoa market, farm family size, cost of family sustenance, and agricultural input costs. For example, in response to the 2016 excess Ivorian cocoa harvest, Tony’s more than doubled its premium to compensate for the decline in farm gate price. This contrasts from the nearly static Fairtrade price and premium, which will be updated in late 2019 from their 2011 values (Fairtrade).

The Proof is in the (Chocolate) Pudding

One of the unique aspects of Tony’s relationships with farmers is its comprehensive analysis of progress. Tony’s has partnered with the KIT Royal Tropical Institute, “an independent centre of expertise and education for sustainable development,” to investigate the impact of its efforts on local communities (KIT 2). The interviews documented in the FAIR Report indicate that the farmers have generally positive feelings toward their relationships with Tony’s. The cooperative managers have a greater sense of ownership and confidence in their farms. Women in the cooperatives are more empowered and can contribute tangibly to the cocoa communities. Overall, farmers appreciate the additional Tony’s premium, but there is no explicit evidence regarding the extent to which the premiums have directly increased their incomes (Tony’s, Report 36). Although increased living incomes is one of Tony’s goals for its farmers, these economic efforts are also intended to indirectly prevent systemic causes of slavery and child labor.

The Climb for Ethical Labor with CLMRS

Tony’s efforts at eradicating slavery and child labor extend beyond the economic sphere in its collaboration with the Child Labor Monitoring Remediation System (CLMRS). This system was founded by the International Cocoa Initiative and Nestle to track, target, and eradicate child labor in the cocoa industry (Nestle 23). Tony’s has thoroughly embraced this system by mobilizing local communities to “actively and structurally [search] for child labor” (Tony’s, Report 1). The system is centered on the CLMRS community facilitators. trained individuals who spread awareness of prohibited forms of child labor among local communities. These facilitators visit farmers at their homes to interview both farmers and children to identify the children at greatest risk for child labor. They also hold awareness sessions to teach farmers about fair labor practices. From an interview with KIT, an administrative manager at an Ivorian cooperative indicated his involvement in CLMRS has enabled him to “educate people and strengthen groups” and fulfill a personal goal of being a “role model for the youth” (34).

One of the major strengths of this system is its focus on the collective local identity and social solidarity of cocoa communities through personal interaction. However, this also leads to inefficiencies including incomplete data collection and difficulties in data analysis. In 2017, CLMRS found 268 cases of child labor—primarily children performing dangerous tasks on family farms—and no cases of modern slavery. Very reasonably, Tony’s admits this may be an underestimate. However, after only one year of working with CLMRS, it has visited over 3,000 households and interviewed nearly 4,000 children (Tony’s, Report 40). On a larger scale, CLMRS spans multiple companies in West Africa, and its overall performance shows promising signs of progress. As of 2017, CLMRS as a whole identified nearly 15,000 cases of child labor, over half of whom were longer in child labor three years later (USDOL 74). Considering this broader progress, Tony’s appears to be on an upward trajectory of identifying and eliminating child labor.

Chocolate industry labor abuses and Tony’s central mission, explained on a box of chocolate bars.

Emphasizing Education

Tony’s Chocolonely also prioritizes education—of both producers and consumers—as a proxy for social change. The company invests in agricultural education and works with farmers to improve their yields through sustainable farming practices. They help develop skills for cultivating cocoa and other crops, for higher farm productivity and less dependency on cocoa. Focusing on education helps target and prevent inequalities that arise downstream in the supply chain. The company seeks to “professionalize farming cooperatives and farms, giving them more power to structurally change inequality” (Tony’s, Report 27). In addition to educating farmers and managers, Tony’s also provides children with direct resources to help them attend school. Its efforts range from arranging birth certificates and health insurance to distributing school supplies and bicycles. Rather than fixing surface-level issues of productivity and management, Tony’s targets the core of the problem, laying a solid foundation to enable the farmers to grow.

Scrutiny in Sourcing

Another ethical point of contention along the cocoa-chocolate supply chain is the sourcing and sustainability of ingredients. Since Tony’s engages in direct trade with its five cooperatives for all of its cocoa beans, it is able to maintain complete transparency and traceability throughout the process. All of its cocoa beans are 100% traceable, meaning Tony’s knows exactly who produced the beans, under what conditions they were produced, and the path they took to arrive at its bean warehouse in Antwerp, Belgium (Tony’s, Report 27). Another key ingredient, cocoa butter, has also come under scrutiny regarding sourcing and sustainability. Tony’s produces its cocoa butter in conjunction with Barry Callebaut in Abidjan, the economic capital of the Ivory Coast. The company focuses on improving sustainability in cocoa butter production by using locally grown mid-crop beans (52). Because these beans are out of season and lower in quality, the Ivorian government prohibits them from export. Consequently, cocoa farmers generate significantly less income during the off season. However, these beans can still be used to produce cocoa butter, which is exactly what Tony’s does. It also pays these farmers the same Tony’s additional premium, allowing them to maintain a more stable income year-round.

In addition to its cacao products, Tony’s also pays close attention to the sourcing of its various flavorings and chocolate add-ins. The FAIR Report displays a traceability map of the main ingredients in various chocolate products (80-81). This includes basic ingredients such as Fairtrade cane sugar from Mauritius, to limited edition flavorings such as red wine powder from France. The company doesn’t stop at only the edible ingredients; they also take into consideration their packaging. Their chocolate wrappers are made of Forest Stewardship Council-certified recycled paper and printed with plant-based inks in a climate neutral and environmentally friendly facility. Furthermore, the pages of the FAIR report were printed on paper made from recycled sugar cane leaves and corn cobs (127).

Creative Consumer Contact

The other side of Tony’s chocolate industry mission is its consumer base. The company relies on its loyal Dutch fans and growing international customers to spread its chocolate and mission. One of the most recent initiatives to spread consumer awareness is the Tony’s Chocotruck Tour featuring the “Bean to Bar Journey.” This unique approach to fighting the “‘anonymity’ of the market” sensitizes consumers so they know conditions of production of the goods they consume (Sylla 47).

Tony’s Chocotruck toured the country to spread awareness, consumer responsibility, and of course, chocolate.

The colorful truck is adorned with bright lights and operated by enthusiastic Tony’s employees eager to share both Tony’s chocolate and mission. This fun, jovial atmosphere contrasts from the sobering message that the company is trying to convey: slavery and child labor are ubiquitous in the chocolate industry, and consumers and companies must take action. Through the tour, Tony’s seeks “to meet loads of new chocofans and serious friends who will share our chocolate and our story” (Tony’s “Chocotruck”). The truck contains interactive displays highlighting labor abuses in the chocolate industry, as well as Tony’s efforts to remediate them. It begins with staggering statistics revealing human trafficking, slavery, and child labor on cocoa farms. The displays continue by describing Tony’s various measures and sourcing principles to address the issue. The focus on consumer interaction— “The choice is yours. Are you in?”—makes visitors feel like they are directly involved in impacting these injustices.

The interior of the Chocotruck, filled with fun, educational displays.

Governmental Action

Finally, Tony’s has also worked with the Dutch government in an attempt to pass legislation addressing corporate responsibility of child labor. The “Zorgplicht Kinderarbeid” Child Labor Due Diligence Act would require businesses in the Netherlands to declare that they are taking all necessary measures to prevent child labor, identify the risks of child labor in their supply chains, and address these risks to the best of their abilities (Beltman 1). Although this bill would have only applied to Dutch businesses, it was an earnest attempt at governmentally enforceable change in the political sphere. Despite Tony’s petition including 42 cocoa businesses and over 13,000 signatures, the bill failed to pass the Dutch Upper House (Tony’s, Report 66). The company admitted that efforts at government progress in child labor due diligence have been met with resistance. However, the wide support of the petition demonstrated that the company has succeeded in spreading awareness and inspiring others to act. Despite the lack of political progress, Tony’s shows no signs of resignation.

Solidairy-ty in the Industry

Overall, Tony’s Chocolonely presents a wide array of strategies aimed at their singular mission of 100% slave free chocolate. These principles have helped Tony’s excel in spreading awareness among consumers, and it hopes to further inspire other chocolate companies to act. However, no single company can successfully address every complex ethical issue in the chocolate industry. Tony’s has a significant presence in the Netherlands, but Dutch chocolate is only a fraction of the global industry, in terms of consumption and economy (ICO 39-40). Additionally, Tony’s currently works with approximately 5,000 individual farmers in West Africa, only about 0.2% of the total 2.5 million farmers in region (Tony’s, Report 34). The company values strong personal relationships with its farmers, but this comes as a tradeoff to the breadth of its influence. Finally, Tony’s mission of slave free chocolate may initially seem like too simplistic of a goal. If the company were to approach this mission exclusively through traditional tactics of policy, certifications, or consumer pressure, this would indeed be too low a bar. However, Tony’s uses an innovative, holistic approach to targeting systemic social, economic, and political issues at different stages within the supply chain. These principles, combined with over-the-top enthusiasm for its “chocofan” consumers, are helping Tony’s transform the chocolate industry’s ethical standards from within.

Works Cited: Scholarly Sources

  1. Beltman, Henk Jan. “A Law on the Duty of Care for Child Labour Seriously Tackles the Issue of Child Labour.” Received by Senate of the Netherlands: Standing committee for foreign affairs, defence and development cooperation, 3 October 2017, The Hague, Netherlands.
  2. Fairtrade International. Fairtrade Minimum Price and Fairtrade Premium Table. Bonn, Germany: Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International. 28 March 2019.
  3. International Cocoa Organization Executive Committee. The World Cocoa Economy: Past and Present. London, United Kingdom: International Cocoa Organization. 18–21 September 2012.
  4. KIT Royal Tropical Institute. Annual Report 2017. Amsterdam, Netherlands. 2017.
  5. Martin, Carla D. “Modern Day Slavery” AAAS 119X, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University. 27 Mar. 2019.
  6. Nestle Cocoa Plan. Tackling Child Labour 2017 Report. Vevey, Switzerland. 20 June 2017.
  7. Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: the Dark Side of the Worlds Most Seductive Sweet. The New Press, 2008.
  8. Sylla, Ndongo Samba. The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich. Ohio University Press, 2014.
  9. Tony’s Chocolonely. “The Bean to Bar Journey – Chocotruck Tour.” Tony’s Chocolonely, 2019, tonyschocolonely.com/us/en/chocotruck.
  10. Tony’s Chocolonely. Tony’s Chocolonely FAIR Report 2017-2018. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Tony’s Chocolonely. 29 November 2018. Print.
  11. United States Department of Labor. Child Labor Cocoa Coordinating Group (CLCCG) Annual Report 2017. Washington, D.C.: USDOL. 2017.

Works Cited: Multimedia Sources

  1. Fairtrade. Fairtrade Logo. Wikimedia Commons, 7 November 2011. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fairtrade-logo.jpg. Accessed 15 March 2019.
  2. Tony’s Chocolonely. “Tony’s Chocolonely – the story of an unusual chocolate bar.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 15 October 2015. Web.
  3. Tony’s Chocolonely. “Tony’s Chocolonely – Tony’s Bean to Bar Journey.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 7 March 2019. Web.
  4. Tony’s Chocolonely. “Tony’s Chocolonely USA on Instagram: ‘Girl Power! These Ladies Supply Cocoa Beans to ECOJAD, Our Partner Cooperative in Ivory Coast. This Picture Was Taken on Their Cassava…”.” Instagram, 2 August 2018, http://www.instagram.com/p/Bl_lLgXBgts/.
  5. All other photos were taken by the author.

WKND Chocolate

WKND Chocolate

Transparency has become one of the leading factors in consumer priority within the consumer-packaged food market over the last decade.  The “why” and “how” behind a product have become as important as the product itself, according to new research from the Nielsen Co. Nearly 4 in 10 U.S. consumers say they would switch from the food and beverage brands they currently buy to others that provide clearer, more accurate product information, Nielsen said.” (Food Business News)

The chocolate market-place has subtlety started to bloom thousands of small, artisanal companies that are focusing on specific sourcing practices to create a healthy and sustainable way of producing high quality chocolate.  Unfortunately, the big five chocolate companies still reign strong because of customer loyalty and branding but we need to expose their lack of sustainability and support the smaller, high-quality entrepreneurs in the chocolate space.  WKND Chocolate Company out of Denver, Colorado is a completely transparent bean to bar chocolate company that not only sources responsibly but empowers women in the entrepreneurial space.

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WKND was founded by Lauren Heineck in 2017 while she was living in Spain.  Lauren worked for a company called Feastly prior to starting her chocolate company.  Feastly is an online platform for chefs to create menus and host private dinners.  Through Feastly, Lauren met many great chefs and diners that were interested in innovative dining experiences and this encouraged her to follow her path to telling the stories of various socio-cultural entrepreneurs involved with her favorite food, chocolate.

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Lauren states on her website, “We all have chocolate memories — they are ingrained within us and unique to our personal experiences and relationships; much the same as the cacao bean is unique in its own tale of where it comes from, how it got to us the chocolate makers, and what fable or allegory it will live on to tell with its final owner…in chocolate form.   

Lovingly crafting future stories and moments of celebration via my favorite medium: cacao. I have infinite adoration and respect for this finite resource, and thus each taste, sniff, sip, and decadent square is riddled with sublime intention. John Muir said it best “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”

In addition to making sustainable and delicious chocolate Lauren also has a podcast where she features companies (mostly women) that are moving the artisanal chocolate industry into the future by building relationships with sustainable practices at their core.  Most of the entrepreneurs started their companies because they wanted to feel good about the chocolate treats they consume on a regular basis.  One the podcasts on her website is, Episode 22:  Cocoa Innovation with Kim Wilson of Good King Snacking Cocao features Kim Wilson, Co-founder of Good King Snacking:

From Mrs. Field’s cookie-fame dreams to social corporate responsibility and on-the-ground commodity disruption, Kim Wilson has found her place in the innovative space of CPG food products utilizing cocoa beans with the new product Good King Snacking Cacao. Coming off of a 2017 Good Food Award for their ‘Harmony’ creation, Kim shares with us in this Well Tempered podcast episode her journey towards considering how to turn back the supply & value chain, and trail-blaze a new category. She is based in Seattle, Washington and travels often to meet and train her sourcing partners in Indonesia and Honduras. 

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Kim Wilson Co-founder of Good King Snacking Cacao, photo credit: Kim Wilson

Themes discussed in this episode: 
– Moving from wine sales/marketing to cocoa
– Kim’s path to understanding where cocoa farming was at the time, and where the gaps were
– Good King launched on realization ‘we have to move the supply chain back’
– How snacking cacao differs from cocoa nibs
– Roasting cocoa beans after the shell has been removed
– Why it’s difficult for many origin regions to compete in chocolate making; lack of infrastructure, burden of weather patterns unfit for production, and missing market related to population or geography (competitive quadrant from her MBA)
– Struggles of this new category; FDA processing and licensing, customers thinking cocoa beans are coffee beans
– What else can be done with cacao, where will innovation go?
– Finding affinity with cheese, the “savory version of milk chocolate”

Good King’s pieces of innovation: 

  • Move supply chain back
  • Make use for the smaller beans usually not requested by other chocolate makers
  • Target certain clones
  • Let women lead; skills/dexterity of their hands, interest in the work, taking them out of potentially harmful scenarios, planting the seed for other entrepreneurial ventures
  • Agricultural processor vs. Food processor and pioneering the groundwork for entry into the US
  • Save time, invest locally; keep more of the manufacturing elements in country without decreasing nutrients of the raw bean or using up energy sources for processing

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Lauren gives a full spectrum background on the company and its founders so that consumers know exactly who they’re supporting and why their items cost what they do.  WKND chocolate understands that innovation is not just product based.  Cultural shifts are a major way that companies can shift the weight of an industry.  If we’ve learned anything from 2017, it is that women should be empowered in every aspect of every industry as equals and they deserve every opportunity that is available to them.  Our country, like chocolate, has been controlled by wealthy and powerful white men and Lauren is helping to bring balance to this part of the chocolate world.

Every grocery store checkout has multiple shelves stocked full of candy.  More than half of those candies contain and/or are predominantly chocolate.  When I learned in class that a Hershey’s Kiss is only 11% chocolate I was curious how much chocolate was in the other candy bars.  In addition to the lack of chocolate in each candy bar there is no clear communication of where the chocolate is coming from or how it was sourced.  The advertisements built around the big five is based on luring children into eating sweets.  In “The True History of Chocolate” by Coe and Coe, there are graphics from the early 1900’s produced by Cadbury and it is a picture of a man drinking a cup of hot cocoa.  The headline reads “Cadbury’s Cocoa – Makes Strong Men Stronger” With the intention of empowering women and creating an equal market via advertising, communication and quality practices Lauren has captured a solid platform to showcase all of the great work that her peers are creating.

Works Cited

Heineck, Lauren.

http://wkndchocolate.com/about/

http://wkndchocolate.com/podcast/

Watrous, Monica.  Food Business News. 8/29/17.

https://www.foodbusinessnews.net/articles/9834-clarity-needed-in-clean-labeling