Tag Archives: sweetness

Chocolate- Beyond the Shelf

Its 10pm and all of the sudden it hits you- that late night craving for something sweet. You try to resist the temptation at first but finally you give in. You pause your new Netflix show you have been binge watching, get up from your bed, and go to the cabinet where you keep all the goodies. To your dismay you open the cabinet to bare drawers with nothing but canned food and ramen in sight. However, your craving is strong so you decide to make the trip to the local convenience store around the corner. Given that you are an undergrad at Harvard University you make you’re way to the center of the square where you have a number of options- CVS, Shaw’s, Cardullo’s, and Formaggio. You want to try something new so you decide on Cardullo’s and make a beeline for the sign that reads “Chocolate”. To your surprise there are shelf filled with different brands of chocolate that you have never seen before. You survey the selection not even knowing what terms like “Raw 100% Cacao” mean, let alone what that would taste like. You ask yourself questions like “Is this $13 chocolate bar going to be that much better that a Hershey’s?” and “How is hand-crafted chocolate different from regular chocolate?”

These are all fine questions for the average chocolate consumer to ask. In fact, I would argue that the average chocolate consumer should ask even more questions about their chocolate! The goal of this post is to help the average consumer better understand the options they face when they are searching for their next late night chocolate fix. This post will actually look at some of the selections that are available from Cardullo’s in Harvard Square and explain what one can learn from the selection. Some of the points that’s will be considered include the type of chocolate, ethical concerns, price point, and intended audience of all the different chocolate bars. With the vast number of selections available at Cardullo’s, the examination of each individual chocolate offering is out of the scope of this paper. Rather, this post will look in depth at two different chocolate selections with the hopes that the reader can become better informed about the diverse world of chocolate.

The first type of chocolate offering we will examine is the Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate bar. This bar gives us the standard milk chocolate bar that so many of us have come to know and love. The first milk chocolate bar dates back to 1879 when Henri Nestle and Daniel Peter were able to utilize a newly discovered cooking process to produce these bars. (Coe and Coe 246-247). As time went on milk chocolate increased in popularity as a result its sweet taste and marketed health benefits. With milk chocolate still very popular today one should be aware of the process through which milk chocolate is produced. The chart below gives a detailed picture of the current milk chocolate production process.

Chocolate Processing Flow Chart
Source: http://www.c-spot.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/flowchart.jpg

As you can see the initial steps are similar and then there is more specific steps needed in order to make milk chocolate. The key ingredients in milk chocolate that separate it from the other forms of chocolate are the milk and sugar added in the product. Additionally, the milk chocolate that most of us consume today actually has a very low percentage of cacao compared to other chocolate selections.

With the rise in popularity of milk chocolate over the last 150 years or so there have also been a rise in the number of companies producing chocolate products. However, Cadbury did not just hop on this trend in recent years. The Cadbury Company was founded by John Cadbury, who in 1824 opened a coffee and tea shop in Birmingham, U.K. where they sold the traditional coffee drink at that time. (Coe and Coe 241). Eventually, the Cadbury developed their family coffee shop into the largest chocolate producer in Great Britain. The Cadbury Company is credited with a number of firsts in the chocolate industry one of which includes the creation of the box of chocolates (Coe and Coe 242). The effort to make sure that the Cadbury Company was using responsible sourcing actions began in the early 20th century. It was at this time when “William Cadbury (who was disillusioned by labor abuses in São Tomé and Principe and under considerable pressure to find a more ethical alternative) reported to his friend and confidant, E.D. Morel, who was a journalist and human rights campaigner, that he had heard positive things about the British colonial authorities in Ghana (still the Gold Coast at the time)” (Berlan 1092-1093). As a result of all the positive things Cadbury had heard “Ghana became Cadbury’s main supplier of cocoa” (Berlan 1093). Overall, Cadbury is one of the most established chocolate companies on the planet that played a critical role in the introduction of milk chocolate to the U.K. Now when you bite in to one of their signature Cadbury Dairy Milk bars you will have an idea of how much work went into that product.

Classic Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate Bar

The next selection that we will explore is the Antidote chocolate bar. I am not going to lie, the main reason that I want to further analyze this option is because of the packaging of the bar, which bright orange, pink, and blue color options stood out from the rest. While this may seem like a trivial point, the company has surely thought about the best way to brand their chocolate. The packaging has a very modern style and with circles surrounding each letter of the company name and on the top of the packaging you can see that it is “Raw 100% Cacao with crunchy nibs”. It is clear that the company is trying to market itself as a more luxury brand of chocolate. That is if the $10 per bar price point had yet to get that message across. While this price may seem ridiculous to some, there are a number of consumers who are fine with paying this much for a chocolate bar. For years it seemed that people viewed a chocolate bar as a commodity, a cheap snack that you could buy at the check out counter of your local gas station. However, the general public is starting to see more high priced, luxury chocolate bars like Antidote come to market. This all has to do with how people perceive chocolate; is it a commodity or a luxury? While the movement to promote chocolate as a luxury may seem to relatively new, chocolates was introduced to the world as one of the most exclusive luxury goods across the world. In early 17th Europe chocolate could only be consumed by the upper class elite. “Chocolate became such a popular repast at the seventeenth century French court and in noble salons that in 1705 the crown finally allowed the Guild of Paris coffeehouse owners (limonadiers) to produce and sell it by the cup”(Terrio 10). Today, all people are able to consume chocolate in many forms, not just through drinking it. If the consumer does decide to choose a “premium” chocolate bar they should know why they are paying more. This raises the question: What makes a premium chocolate bar better than an average chocolate bar?

Antidot Chocolate Selection
Source: antidotechoco.com

To answer this question, one must look at the sources of the chocolate that they are consuming. When one does this they will see that there chocolate is being produced by a company that falls into one of two categories. The first category is the big five chocolate companies which include Nestle, Mars, Hershey, or Mondelez. These are the five largest chocolate companies in the world that produce a disproportionate amount of the chocolate we consume. The second category a chocolate company can fall into is craft chocolate company. These companies are usually much smaller and distribute their product to the region in which it is produced. These craft companies charge more for their bars for a few reasons. First, there smaller scale may inhibit them from negotiating cheaper prices for their ingredients. Second and most important is the quality of their products. Craft chocolate companies are able to produce bars with higher cacao content, which are the most expensive ingredients in chocolate. Additionally, craft chocolate companies tend to be more mindful about the quality of their ingredients and focus on buying cacao grown in a safe environment with little chemical exposure. Furthermore, the smaller scale of these craft chocolate companies allows them to implement strict bean cleaning, roasting, and sanitation processes. It is the combination of all these factors that lead to craft chocolate brands like Antidote to charge a higher price for their product. While many craft producers are independent companies it should be noted that there is the possibility that a company may appear to be a small craft company but is owned by one of the big five.

A high price point makes these chocolate bars appear as a more luxury brand of chocolate, one that can only be consumed by wealthier people. Similarities can be drawn between this fact and the role chocolate played when it was first introduced in Europe. Although, it is all about how the public perceives chocolate. If you view chocolate as a luxury good then maybe you have no problem splurging on a nice chocolate bar even if your financial situation differs from the average person who buys a $12 chocolate bar. This is an important factor consider not just for the chocolate you consume but also all the goods and services you pay for.

European Elite Enjoying Chocolate Drink

Humans have consumed chocolate for approximately 400 years, a relatively short time period considering the how long humans have been around. However, in this short period of time chocolate has gone from a beverage only consumed by the elites, to a food enjoyed by everyone. This transition was not come easy. Along the way, chocolate had to overcome certain stigmas amount its consumption such as its association with gluttony and sin. There has been controversy surrounding the big five chocolate companies and the use of child slaves in the harvesting of their cacao. These issues are not completely resolved but the chocolate community has been able to learn and grow from them. While the chocolate industry has seemed unstable at times, we all knew that a chocolate bar’s present would be constant at the store down the street when that late night craving hit. Next time that craving does come about and you go looking for your options I hope you are able to draw on the information presented in this article and feel good knowing that you are a better-informed chocolate consumer. Being well informed feels good but I know it will never feel as good as the taste of chocolate since “there is a built in human likeness for sweet taste”(Mintz 14), a likeness that chocolate has been able to satisfy so well.

Works Cited

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

Berlan, Amanda. “Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana.” The Journal of Development Studies, vol. 49, no. 8, 2013, pp. 1088–1100.

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

Terrio, Susan J. Crafting the Culture and History of French Chocolate. University of California Press, 2000.

Sugar: A Sweet Transformation

In the second millennium, the introduction of sugar transformed the Western diet. Today, the extreme rate of consumption is both a major health concern and a staple of the modern diet. Only a handful of centuries ago, sugar was a rare commodity reserved only to be used sparingly by the wealthy. Within time, however, production increased and with that came an increase in the accessibility of sugar. In the 18th century alone, British sugar consumption nearly quintupled (Mintz 67). Throughout Europe, sugar consumption transformed from a delicacy to an essential ingredient used as a sweetener, a medicine, and a preservative among other things. Today, we continue to experience the outcome of this landmark growth.

The figure shows a sharp and consistent increase in sugar consumption over time.

Sugar as a Spice

Historians estimate that sugar was first introduced in Europe around the turn of the 12th century. At the time, traders grouped the product with ‘spices’ (Mintz 79). This trend was matched in the kitchen as when studying the ‘cookbooks’ of the era, one can see that sugar was considered only but a ‘spice’ or condiment as they used it only in very small quantities in their recipes. This was due in large part to the exorbitant price of the new commodity. The product was only accessibly priced to the rich and even they struggled to afford it.

New Uses for Sugar

Soon, however, drawn by the natural human liking to sugar’s sweet flavor, people found ways to increase the production of sugar. By the 16th century, sugar had become more plentiful and more affordable. In turn, the product was no longer reserved to be used in small quantities by the wealthy (Mintz 86). Therefore, there were various new uses of sugar that emerged. First, artists used the the pure, white, and durable nature of sugar to make decorations (87). These artists would combine sugar with other foods to create sculptures such as animals or palaces (89). Due to sugar’s continued luxury status, these decorations gloriously boasted one’s class and wealth (95).

People still use sugar as a decoration today when they make chocolate bunnies or wedding cakes.

Second, many used the sweet stimulant, ironically, as a medicine. Today, experts agree that, coupled with a sedentary lifestyle, sugary products can cause obesity (Coe 31). When sugar was first introduced to Europe, however, scholars pointed to the the medicinal lore of sugar referenced in classical Islamic texts (Mintz 96). Many went so far as to argue that sugar was a type of panacea. Soon, the stimulant was a staple of apothecaries across Europe (101).

Additionally, sugar was used as a preservative. Sucrose, the chemical compound found in sugar, has a capacity to draw out moisture. This prevents microorganisms from developing a breeding environment (Mintz 123). Thus, sugar can be used as a seal for edible materials against destructive bacteria. Recognizing this, people used sugar to protect an array of edible goods ranging from fruits to cheeses. This revolutionized the shelf life of nearly every food, thus impacting the common diet of Europeans.

Human’s fundamentally and innately enjoy the sweet taste of sugar. Watch this baby’s first taste of sugar! The natural appeal made sugar a useful sweetener.

Perhaps the most important usage of sugar, however, was as a sweetener. This effect was highlighted in juxtaposition to the introduction of exotic products such as coffee, tea, and chocolate (Mintz 108). In the 13th century, a Marco Polo led expedition connected the Western world to the Silk Road, a trade route that traversed Asia. Two centuries later, Christopher Columbus sailed the Santa Maria to the New World. These new discoveries introduced Europe to a myriad of new foods and flavors. These culinary discoveries famously include modern staples such as tea, coffee, and chocolate. All three of these products were introduced to Europe with luxurious undertones; the exotic nature of these products naturally made them delicacies that were associated with the wealthy and thus heavily sought after. Each has a bitter taste, however, that can be repulsive at first. People needed a second flavor to sell their taste buds on these products (109). Their solution was sugar: a flavor so sweet and naturally appealing to the human tongue that it can save any bitter flavor. This preference shined in arguably the most pivotal centuries of culinary history. With newfound globalization, new foods and beverages were being introduced and incorporated into daily life at a staggering pace (120). With these new food and beverages came new tastes and new urges to enjoy different tastes. At that moment, sugar shined as the great sweetener that it is. It no longer was the rare spice of the 12th century but an ingredient of foundational importance in everybody’s diet.

Concluding Thoughts

Sugar consumption in Europe rose brilliantly in the 2nd millennium in Britain and the rest of Europe with wonders such as candy decorations and delicious chocolate. The joyful increase in consumption emerged hand-in-hand with a darker rise of production. With a big, untapped market for sugar, people needed to find ways to produce the crop more plentifully in the middle of the millennium. The dark solution to this problem was slavery. Europeans stole people from Africa to be used as slaves in the Caribbean to produce enough sugar to match the demand at home. The two ends of the Gulf Stream showed two very different realities of sugar. While Europeans enjoyed the sweet taste of sugar at home, African slaves were victims of the cruel business of sugar production in the Caribbean. Each sweet grain of the final product was sadly built on the shoulders of men who dare dream of nothing sweeter than freedom. The legacy of this tragedy today is a continued, heavy sugar trade imbalance where poor countries like India tend to produce most of the sugar and rich countries like the U.S. consume more than their share (USDA). The ubiquitous sugar universe we live in today is all thanks to centuries of injustice, and the health issues that arise from the modern rate of consumption are perhaps a late piece of karma that is pounding down the foothold of the sugar industry.

Works Cited

Coe, Sophie D. and Coe, Michael D. The True History of Chocolate. Thames & Hudson, 1996.

Mintz, Sidney. Sweetness and Power.. Penguin Books, 1985.

United States Department of Agriculture. Sugar: World Markets and Trade. November 2018.

Bitterness and Health of Dark Chocolate: Subtle Backstories Revealed

INTRODUCTION

“Ooooohhh, what’s this?  Free chocolate?!”

So began an informal chocolate tasting with 17 curious volunteers.  Each individual completed a survey that both collected and tested their knowledge of 8 anonymized chocolate samples.  At the end of the survey, respondents selected their favorite sample and attempted to match each one with its wrapper.

While more data was collected than ultimately analyzed, 2 themes cropped up relatively quickly that potentially revealed both underlying historical and contemporary backstories.  The first theme is the participants’ preference to sweet chocolate over dark chocolate, which can be explained by the historical dubious business practices of the Big Chocolate firms as opposed to the more simple explanation that all humans naturally prefer the taste of sweetness.  The second theme consists of the participants’ conflicting knowledge about the extent of dark chocolate’s health benefits.

METHOD

Planning the questionnaire at first proved challenging.  What question(s) would the survey attempt to answer?  Who would participate?  What kinds or brands of chocolate would be included?  Ultimately, it was decided to ask employees at a local Boston start-up company to participate in the survey as this particular office is known for its enthusiasm and participation in events.

The survey had two sections: pre-tasting and post-tasting.  The pre-tasting section focused primarily on the participants’ chocolate consumption (what determines the purchase of chocolate, how much chocolate is consumed, who receives purchased chocolate, what determines the purchase of a particular chocolate brand over others, etc.) with two preparatory questions meant to engage partakers with their chocolate.  The post-tasting section requested subjects to identify their personal favorite chocolate sample and to match all samples with their packaging.

Chocolate Samples
The chocolates sampled by the volunteers. All are advertised on the wrappers as either “dark” or “bitter.”  However, what the participants did not know is that the Hershey’s and Cadbury brands have such low cacao percentages, they are widely considered milk chocolates instead.  Brands were chosen based on their collective ability to compare sweetness, certifications, price, and brand recognition.  All samples were also easy to purchase and obtain.

20180501_205150
To keep participants from using indicators on the actual samples, all brand names and symbols were scraped off with a knife beforehand.  This was the most time-consuming aspect of the entire survey setup.

Neither section was designed to answer any particular predetermined question.  Instead, the resulting analysis was written based on the data collected and the trends it illustrated.  Only one of the biographical data sets was used for the analysis: city and country of birth.  For the reader’s reference, attached is the blank form all contributors received.

SWEETNESS AND BIG CHOCOLATE

The first overall theme from the results and sampling was that the majority of participants (9 of the 15 who responded to the specific prompt) preferred the sweet samples (Hershey’s or Cadbury) to the bitter/darker ones.  One volunteer jokingly referred to the 90% Lindt Supreme Dark chocolate sample as being “offensive” to her taste buds.  This is not surprising as most people exhibit a preference for sweetness.

As described by David Benton, “The attraction of chocolate lies in its taste.  The combination of sweetness and fat approaches the ideal hedonic combination.”  Benton further explains that within experimentation, “when the palatability of combinations of fat and sugar were compared, the optimal combination was found to be 7.6% sugar with cream containing 24.7% fat” and that “the fat content of chocolate is close to this ideal figure, although the sugar content of chocolate is greater” (Benton, 2004).  However, as this Slate article points out, humans “are the descendants of wandering hunter-gatherers with a powerful ability to learn from experience: Like them, we can train our palates and brains to extract some pleasure from almost any kind of food.”  For example, the Aymara of Peru possess genes that predispose them to despise bitterness, yet “their diets depended on a highly bitter strain of potatoes.  So they liked them.”  Ultimately, necessity and culture defeated their genetic predisposition (McQuaid, 2015).

Sidney Mintz also expresses his doubts that a human preference for sugar (a major ingredient in almost all chocolate) lead to the proliferation of sugar around the globe: “That human beings like the taste of sweetness does not explain why some eat immense quantities of sweet foods and others hardly any… There is nothing ‘natural’ or inevitable about these ‘processes’ [of adopting flavor preferences]; they have no inbuilt dynamic of their own” (Mintz, 1986).  Applying this logic to the survey volunteers, it can be suggested that the preference to Hershey’s and Cadbury is due to a lack of necessity and cultural pressure to enjoy bitter chocolate.  This is not difficult to imagine through the lens of Big Chocolate’s business model and ethics.

Chocolate’s history has undergone several drastic changes.  Where it was once solely available to Mesoamericans in Pre-Columbian times, it moved to Europe as a status symbol drunk by elites and eventually became a widely available treat in multiple cultures across the globe.  How this happened is a tale of several factors that include benign technological advances as well as pervasive slave labor.  Much, if not all, the cacao used for chocolate during the Industrial Revolution was harvested by slaves in the New World as “enslaved people were more valuable than indentured because their labor was purchased for life rather than for a limited period of years and the children of enslaved women were declared slaves at birth” (Higman, 2011).  Even after abolition, slave labor persisted in various forms such as indentured labor and debt servitude.  When journalists confronted the Cadbury company in the early 1900s with evidence that they were purchasing cacao from plantations utilizing slave labor, Cadbury did very little to change the status quo, instead hiring its own agent to investigate African plantation practices four years after first hearing rumors of slave labor in Africa.  In four years, the Cadbury company had “accomplished nothing for the slaves who produced the cocoa beans” (Satre, 2005).

By lowering the cost of labor, companies are able to save on production costs and lower the price for consumers, allowing their chocolate to become more widely available on the global market.  As seen by the Hershey’s and Cadbury wrappers used in the survey, neither has fair trade certifications that indicate better ethical business practices compared to their contemporary peers who attempt to solely purchase cacao from farmers and farming cooperatives ensuring child-free labor practices (among other things).  As seen in the figure below, Cadbury Royal Dark and Hershey’s Special Dark are at least 40% cheaper per ounce than their fair trade competitors (Endangered, Trader Joe’s, and Green & Black’s).

Chocolate Prices
Price per ounce of the 8 chocolate samples.

Creating a wider consumer audience was also accomplished with clever business tactics.  For example, Mars’ Milky Way was a creation specifically designed to skimp on expensive quality chocolate but still be considered tasty to consumers.  Forrest Mars recounted this about his father and the Milky Way bar: “He has a candy bar.  And it’s a chocolate malted drink.  He put some caramel on top of it, and some chocolate around it – not very good chocolate, he was buying cheap chocolate – but that damn thing sold.  No advertising.”  The Milky Way was strikingly different from its competitors because the malt-flavored nougat was the bar’s main ingredient.  It made the bar “much bigger, tasted just as chocolatey, but cost much less to produce.”  Forrest Mars bragged, “People walked up to the candy counter and they’d see this flat little Hershey bar for a nickel and right next to it a giant Milky Way.  Guess which one they’d pick?” (Brenner, 2000).

Due to competitive business practices between the various Big Chocolate companies, the American market is saturated with cheap chocolate.  There is also little incentive to purchase chocolate for cultural reasons, the other would-be defender of bitter flavors.  Unfortunately, American society has a less significant cultural history (comparatively speaking) associated with chocolate as “the institution of the chocolate or coffee-house seems never to have crossed the Atlantic to England’s North American colonies.”  Coffee and chocolate houses were hotbeds of sedition in England where men would drink chocolate or coffee and politically foment.  However, “parliamentary democracy did not extend to the colonies, and Americans were isolated from the give-and-take and political deals that were the daily fare of enfranchised Englishmen in [chocolate and coffee] establishments… The colonial well-to-do took their chocolate, but at home,” away from society at large (Coe & Coe, 2013).  This can be seen reflected in the fact that Americans consume less chocolate per person per year (9.5 pounds) than several European countries (UK = 16.3 pounds, Switzerland = 19.8 pounds, Germany = 17.4 pounds, and the Netherlands = 10.4 pounds) (McCarthy, 2015).

At this point, it should be noted that of the 9 participants who preferred the Hershey’s and Cadbury samples, 8 were born in the United States and 1 in Asia (which exhibits different chocolate consumption habits and preferences than in the West) (Allen, 2010).  All European-born participants favored the more bitter chocolates.  Unfortunately, only 15 individuals completed this section of the form, which does not make the survey particularly scientifically or statistically significant.  In future, it would be far more interesting to gather a larger number of participants.

HEALTH PERCEPTIONS

A far lesser but generally accepted theme among the participants was the perception of dark chocolate’s health benefits.  This was displayed during one particular key moment.  A few individuals expressed slight hesitation in joining the sampling due to dieting concerns.  “It’s not my cheat day,” one said of his regimen.  “Oh, don’t worry,” another participant exclaimed, “it’s all dark chocolate, so it’s healthy.”  On the one hand, the vacillating participants had a sense that eating dark chocolate broke their diet.  But then there were colleagues purporting that dark chocolate was healthy enough to break his diet. That was all that seemed necessary for the individual to become a volunteer and join the sampling party with his colleagues.

Unfortunately, the health benefits of chocolate have been vastly sensationalized as contemporary popular “claims confer on chocolate the properties of being a stimulant, relaxant, euphoriant, aphrodisiac, tonic, and antidepressant” (Bisson et al., 2013).  The woman in the video below is a prime example.

However, for every study suggesting positive benefits, there is a study to suggest that no significant effect is present at all.  For example, one study found that cocoa lowered blood pressure in patients with coronary artery disease, but then “a double-blind placebo trial using flavanol-rich cocoa beverages with natural or added theobromine, concluded that although after 2 [hours] of consumption the central systolic [blood pressure] was significantly lowered by the theobromine-added beverage, the [24-hour] ambulatory or central [blood pressure] was not affected.”  Consumers could theoretically just consume theobromine (a compound found in cacao) in chocolate every 2 hours, but that would mean ingesting a significant amount of calories, which provides its own set of health consequences.  David Benton summarizes this phenomenon succinctly:

“Chocolate contains a range of compounds… These include caffeine, phenylethylamine, magnesium, and anandamide.  A common reason why they are unlikely to have any significant impact is that with any likely consumption of chocolate they are certain to be provided in a dose that is inactive.  For example, to consume the minimal active dose of 1g of phenylethalmine one would need to rapidly eat 15kg of chocolate.  In addition, to prevent its breakdown by the liver the taking of a monoamine oxidase inhibitor is to be recommended… [O]ne would need to consume 25kg of chocolate to obtain a psychoactive dose of anandamide” (2004).

However, participants and readers should not be discouraged.  While much of dark chocolate’s health benefits are not firmly established, it is true “that dark chocolate ‘does no harm,’ to use the Hippocratic phrase – at least to humans… Dark chocolate does not cause diabetes, dental caries, or acne, or produce headaches, as sometimes has been alleged” (Coe & Coe, 2007).

CONCLUSION

Participants in a novel chocolate tasting experience reinforced historical and contemporary trends prevalent in the chocolate industry.  These included the two themes of preferring sweet chocolate to dark chocolate and contradictory notions of dark chocolate’s health benefits.  The first theme revealed Big Chocolate’s history in slavery and dubious business practices as a potential explanation to consumers’ preference of sweet chocolate as opposed to the more obvious reason that humans naturally prefer the taste of sweetness.  The second theme featured the contradictory health notions associated with dark chocolate as described by participants’ hesitation to join the chocolate sampling.  To further improve the results, more participants could be used to capture more statistically significant data to make the analysis more robust.

REFERENCES

Allen, Lawrence. (2010). Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallet of China’s Consumers. New York: American Management Association.

Benton, David. (2004). “The Biology and Psychology of Chocolate Craving.” Coffee, Tea, Chocolate, and the Brain. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Bisson, Jean-Francois, et al. (2013). “Clinical Benefits of Cocoa: An Overview.” Chocolate in Health and Nutrition. New York: Humana Press.

Brenner, Joel. (2000). The Emperor of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars. New York: Broadway Books.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. (2007). The True History of Chocolate (3rd ed.). New York: Thames and Hudson.

Higman, B.W. (2011). A Concise History of the Caribbean. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

McCarthy, Niall. (2015). “The World’s Biggest Chocolate Consumers [Infographic].” Forbes. Retrieved May 9, 2018 from https://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2015/07/22/the-worlds-biggest-chocolate-consumers-infographic/#6bb1038f4484.

McQuaid, John. (2015). “Why Do We Like Bitter Foods?” Slate. Retrieved May 9, 2018 from http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2015/01/why_do_we_like_bitter_foods.html.

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

Satre, Lowell J. (2005). Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press.

 

*** Many thanks to all the volunteers who sat down after a long day of work to eat chocolate and share their thoughtful opinions.

The True Cost of Happiness: The Human Price of Attainable Luxury

In Eric Weiner’s 2008 book, The Geography of Bliss, he states, “ingredients that we consider essential to the hearty sew of happiness:  money, pleasure, spirituality, family, and chocolate” (2).

His modern, North American viewpoint may be shared by many, however, as we look back to the origins of one of his “essential” happiness ingredients: chocolate – and more specifically, the sugar that is used to sweeten it – we find that a very high human price has been paid to acquire it.

Sweetness

Focusing on England, where sugar was first introduced in small quantities around 1100 AD, but not commonly acknowledged as a costly medicine and/or spice until the 1500s, it became increasingly more available over the following 500 years.  Between 1650 and 1800, consumption rates rose by some 2,500 percent.  Known as a rarity by 1650 and a luxury by 1750, sugar was seen as a necessity by 1850 and quickly became “the first mass-produced exotic” basic product. (Mintz)

In order to fuel this change in demand, England “fought the most, conquered the most colonies, imported the most slaves, and went furthest and fastest in creating a plantation system”  (Martin “Slavery”).  Satisfying the sweet happiness England (and Europe) craved was made possible through the exploitation of Africa and America.  As quoted in Volume 1 of J.H. Bernadine de Saint Pierre’s Voyage to Isle de France, Isle de Bourbon, The Cape of Good Hope…With New Observation on Nature and Mankind by an Officer of the King (1773):

I do not know if coffee and sugar are essential to the happiness of Europe, but I know well that these two products have accounted for the unhappiness of two great regions of the world:  America has been depopulated so as to have land on which to plant them; Africa has been depopulated so as to have the people to cultivate them.  (Mintz, Frontispiece)

Europe Supported by Africa and America_painted2

Servitude

Supported by America

The original workforce was supported by the encomienda system.  This was a grant implemented by the Spanish crown which allowed colonists to demand tribute from indigenous inhabitants in exchange for care, protection, and Christian education. (Martin “Slavery”). However, due to illness, maltreatment, and excessive overwork, the indigenous population declined from “25.2 million in 1519 to 16.8 million in 1532 and 0.75 million in 1622” (Goucher, 491). As the native populations of entire villages disappeared, Europeans turned to other available sources of labor to toil on their newly claimed lands.

Encomienda.pdf

Supported by Africa

To meet the seemingly insatiable demand for sweetness (up to 20,000 tons of sugar produced for English consumers each year), an estimated labor force of 50,000 African slaves was required (Martin “Slavery”).  However, the slaves who toiled on English plantations comprised only a portion of the approximately 10 to 15 million enslaved Africans who survived forced transport across the Atlantic from 1500-1900 (for every 100 enslaved Africans who reached the New World, another 40 died in Africa or during the Middle Passage) (Martin “Slavery”).

The Transatlantic Slave Trade_1450s-1867

For those who survived the Middle Passage life was, in the words of the philosopher Thomas Hobbes, “nasty, brutish and short.”  Working conditions were “so extreme that the slave population never achieved a significant growth rate and depended entirely on African importation to sustain production” (Martin “Slavery”).

Beyond Forced Support

Through revolts and legal emancipation, slaves were eventually released from bondage and given back their freedom:

1804:  Haiti declared independence and abolished slavery

1807:  The slave trade was closed

1834:  British Slavery Abolition Act abolished slavery throughout most of the British Empire

1848:  Slavery was abolished in all French and Danish colonies

1865:  Slavery was abolished in the United States by the 13th Amendment

1886:  Slavery was abolished in Cuba

1888:  Slavery was abolished in Brazil by Golden Law

(Martin “Slavery”)

However, indigenous populations were never given back their lands, slaves (or their descendants) were rarely repatriated and racism and economic inequality still persist today.

In the pursuit of happiness, it is possible that one cannot have or desire too much chocolate or the sugar that sweetens it, but it is important to know and respect their true cost as it is impossible to reverse history or give back life.

 

Works Cited

Goucher, Candice, Charles LeGuin, and Linda Walton. Commerce and Change: The Creation of a Global Economy and the Expansion of Europe. In the Balance: Themes in Global History. Boston: McGraw-Hill. 1998.

Europe Supported By Africa & America.  BEAUTIFUL, ALSO, ARE THE SOULS OF MY BLACK SISTERS. https://kathmanduk2.wordpress.com/2007/08/14/europe-supported-by-africa-and-america/.  N.p. N.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2016.

Martin, Carla D. “Popular sweet tooths and scandal.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 24 Feb. 2016. Class Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “Slavery, abolition, and forced labor.’” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 20 Feb. 2016. Class Lecture.

Mintz, Sidney. 1986[1985]. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin Books.

The African-American Migration Experience. In Motion. http://www.inmotionaame.org/. N.p. N.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2016.

Weiner, Eric. The Geography of Bliss.  New York : Twelve, 2008.

Sexy Chocolate: How white women and black men are aphrodisiacs in advertising

Axe’s Dark Temptation commercial (2008) portrays a young white man who morphs into a “chocolate man” with brown skin, an exaggerated smile and bulging eyes after using the body spray. He then walks around a city while young thin white women scramble to snap his arm off, aggressively lick and bite his ears, and seem controlled by their cravings for chocolate/his body. They have no hesitations about consuming him and do not ask for permission to touch him. He seems in on the joke; at one point he breaks off his nose and sprinkles it into two white women’s ice cream cones without asking, because he already assumes their reaction will be delight and ecstasy. Even though the chocolate man is carnally exploited by white female desire, his plastered smile underlines that this is exactly what he wanted, and that is why he used the product in the first place. Despite that this commercial does not advertise a chocolate product, the fact that chocolate is used as a vessel to advertise the deodorant is significant in understanding how Western society conflates race and sexual desire, masculinity, heterosexual relationships, and chocolate as a food.

The commercial operates on the stereotype that women cannot resist chocolate and therefore will not be able to resist men who use this dark temptation spray. This is even literally written on their website advertising the fragrance today (2015).

axead

This trope has been done again and again in chocolate advertising involving young white women; it is implied that chocolate is something that they irrationally, orgasmically enjoy, and that in exchange for affection from these women, men should give them chocolate products (as evidenced by Valentine’s Day marketing).

http://bittersweetnotes.com/1642-valentines-day-women-being-seduced-by-chocolate

The blatant undertones of race take center stage in this ad; the chocolate man looks like a classic minstrel blackface stereotype, and the exaggerated smile has a history in chocolate advertisements such as the French company Banania’s ads that echo the Uncle Tom motif, a black man content with his exploitation for the pleasure of white consumption. There is also a history of black bodies posing as literal chocolate snacks for white cravings in Western advertising (i.e. Little Coco and Honeybunch from Rowntree’s Cocoa in the U.K., Conguitos in Spain), so this Axe storyline is nothing new (Robertson 42-44).

blackface     “classic” minstrel make-upScreen shot 2015-04-10 at 9.41.38 PM (screenshot of video above)

 

banana  Uncle Tom imagery  (France)

Axe is simply following tradition (i.e. Old Spice) by conflating the black male body with white female sexual desire and white male longing and envy when marketing their product. Axe is operating on the idea that in order to obtain the sexual attention of white women one must acquire “dark” characteristics (the product’s name isn’t even “Chocolate Temptation”—it’s “Dark Temptation.”) This ad shows that American society has a long way to go concerning portrayals of white women serving as the ultimate “trophy” for male sexual desire and black male bodies as sexual, hyper-masculine objects in chocolate advertising.

The second advertisement is for a fictional perfume for women called “White Chocolate Truffle” with the tagline “Anything but Vanilla”.

2sexy

The image of a young, curvy white woman wearing a revealing evening gown while unwrapping and eating a white chocolate truffle already echoes many themes already mentioned in this essay; white female beauty, lust, and chocolate products are all fused together, and the presence of the evening gown implies wealth and upper class status. White skin, specifically white female skin, has long been associated with quality and high social capital.  Here intersectionality plays an important role (Martin Lecture 16 Slide 11)—for even though her white skin is historically viewed as superior and desirable, she is still a woman, and ultimately in many chocolate advertisements her body itself is a commodity to be consumed, not unlike the truffle in her hand, or the implied truffles popping out of her neckline waiting to be “unwrapped” and enjoyed.

nakey

Commodification of women’s bodies (vimeo)

The message is clear: Women need to buy this perfume to smell like white chocolate—a desirable, sweet treat so they can smell as appealing/be as appealing as this sexy woman eating an actual white chocolate truffle, with curves that mimic the truffle shape of the candy to be consumed to satisfy another type of desire (male desire), yet again drawing a connection between receiving heterosexual attention by becoming more like a chocolate product.

Whereas the Axe commercial may be seem odd at best, offensive at worst to 2015 viewers, the White Chocolate Truffle ad looks like something we have all seen before in magazines, and could easily star a buxom white celebrity such as Christina Hendricks, Scarlett Johansson, or Marilyn Monroe, which brings up other complicated issues. White women who showcase their curvy bodies are associated with glamour, class and sex appeal in Hollywood, whereas women of color with round bodies in many cases are criticized for being overly promiscuous or classless for displaying their curves (one just has to look at the backlash for the recent cover art for Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda album to understand the double standard.) (Duca).

 

red

 

dolce

 

vintageboobs

booty

Why is society not offended when white curves are showcased? Would a milk chocolate truffle ad using Nicki’s curves be effective? 

This taps into Western cultural associations with the words “vanilla” and “chocolate” and their conflation with blandness, boringness, pure, clean, and whiteness and spiciness, exciting qualities, dirty, naughty, and people of color. This ad is communicating that this perfume is “anything but vanilla”, implying the user will be the opposite of vanilla–like chocolate—embodying the scandalous, sexually titillating qualities that chocolate (people of color) supposedly imbibe, but still while staying safely within the privilege of being white, and therefore “classy”, and like cocoa butter, sweeter and without as strong a kick. (Martin Lecture 16 Slide 12). The metaphorical imagery is allowing the white female consumer to become sexier and more sexual through the means of chocolate, while still safely and demurely playing up to common images of white female sexuality.

Ultimately, both white women and black men are consistently portrayed as sexual objects in chocolate advertising. Time will tell if this trend will continue.

Works Cited (in order of appearance)

“Dark Temptation” 10 April 2015. http://www.theaxeeffect.com/#/axe-products/dark-temptation-body-spray

Robertson, Emma. “Does you mean dis?: cocoa marketing and race”. Chapter 1: “A deep physical reason: gender, race, and the nation in chocolate consumption. Chocolate, Women, and Empire A Social and Cultural History. Manchester University Press. New York. pages 35-44.

Blackface. February 6, 2014. Hulton Archive Image. banana1015.com 10 April 2015.

Banania, French Chocolate Drink. Image. Slide 13, Lecture 16: Race, ethnicity, and gender in chocolate advertisements. March 30, 2015. AAAS 119x, Carla Martin. Harvard University.

Conguitos, Spanish Chocolate Candies. Video. Slide 14, Lecture 16: Race, ethnicity, and gender in chocolate advertisements. March 30, 2015. AAAS 119x, Carla Martin. Harvard University.

White Chocolate Truffle Ad original work of Julie Coates, conceived by Julie Coates and Dami Aladesanmi.

Six Basic Tenets of Critical Race Theory. Slide 11, Lecture 16. Race, ethnicity, and gender in chocolate advertisements. March 30, 2015. AAAS 119x, Carla Martin. Harvard University.

Naked lady covered in chocolate. https://vimeo.com/6742298

Christina Hendricks advertisement. 20 Sept 2014. http://www.dailymail.co.uk./tvshowbiz/article-2074214. 10 April 2015.

Scarlett Johansson Gallery. mobile.fanshare.com. 10 April 2015.

“Marilyn Monroe voted cleavage queen.” http://www.santabanta.com/newsmaker/3892. Image.

Duca, Lauren. “Nicki Minaj’s ‘Anaconda’ Cover Reveals Something Way Bigger than Her Butt”. HuffPost Entertainment. 31 July 2014. Huffington Post. 10 April 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/30/middlebrow-nicki-minaj_n_5635394.html

Chocolate and Vanilla. Slide 12.Lecture 16. Race, ethnicity, and gender in chocolate advertisements. March 30, 2015. AAAS 119x, Carla Martin. Harvard University.

 

 

 

The Effects of Sugar on Chocolate Consumption

For the majority of the 18th century, the elite primarily consumed chocolate. It was served as a beverage in fancy dishes, and was associated with matters of wealth and prestige (Presilla, 2009). During this time, chocolate production was costly and required a significant amount of human labor. As a result, cacao beans were sold at relatively high prices and were often used as currency for trading (Presilla, 2009).

The fine taste of cacao beans was cherished and sought out by consumers. Its strong, bitter flavor was an acquired taste, but also a sign of high-quality production and tree cultivation (Presilla, 2009). The varying flavors of cacao trees could often be distinguished and low-quality cacao beans were generally recognized (Presilla, 2009). These factors made chocolate an unattainable good to anyone besides those of high social rank.

The 19th century sparked a significant change in the production of chocolate. The Industrial Revolution brought about machinery that remarkably improved the efficiency of chocolate production (Coe & Coe, 2013). Given that the cultivation of cacao was such a laborious process, these machines also contributed to cut down the cost of chocolate production.

One invention, in particular, had a crucial impact in this transformation. In 1828, Conrad Van Houten created a hydraulic press, which was used to separate the fat from the cacao liquor to create cacao butter and a cacao mass (Presilla, 2009). The cocoa butter could be used to make soaps or could be recombined with the cacao mass to make solid chocolate. The hydraulic process both accelerated the production process of chocolate as well as allowed for chocolate to be consumed as a solid (Coe & Coe, 2013).

The Industrial Revolution certainly made chocolate more economically available to the masses as it became cheaper to produce and it became easier to produce mass quantities of chocolate (Coe & Coe, 2013). However, I would argue that it was not sufficient in transforming chocolate from a luxury good to a food of the masses. The availability of the chocolate does not explain how the lower classes established a desire to consume it. Nor does it explain the shift in attitudes surrounding the preferred taste of chocolate. Therefore, while the Industrial Revolution may have sparked this shift, the integration of sugar into chocolate recipes was a necessary supplement that ultimately generated this transition.

Since sugar became a cheap commodity around the same time chocolate did, its addition to chocolate recipes quickly became very popular. This resulted in significant altercations in the attitudes surrounding taste preferences for chocolate. The taste of high-quality cacao became less important and the taste of industrialized, sweetened chocolate was desired (Presilla, 2009). The less-potent flavor of sweetened chocolate made it instantly appealing to a wider array of people, particularly children. In fact, Sidney Mintz simply states, “no society rejects sweetness as unpleasant” (Mintz, 1985, p. 17). This further enhances the argument that sugar is universally accepted as a having a very gratifying flavor. As a result, the immediate appeal to the flavor of sweetened chocolate played an integral role in the change in chocolate’s consumption patterns.

                               

These advertisements portray the shift that developed once sugar was introduced to chocolate recipes. The popularity of sweetened chocolate encouraged big chocolate companies to use the flavor of ‘sweetness’ as a marketing tactic in promoting chocolate. They did this by promoting the sweet nature of innocent children in the majority of their advertisements, emphasizing their new fascination with chocolate.

Furthermore, large-scale chocolate companies, such as Hershey’s and Cadbury, began developing strategies that ultimately cut down the amount of pure chocolate in any given recipe. As such, sugar was used in higher quantities since it was much cheaper than cacao (Coe & Coe, 2013). While this allowed for production costs to be further reduced and allow for chocolate to be sold at lower prices, it also illustrates the shift from quality to quantity in chocolate consumption (Coe & Coe, 2013).

This was first depicted when Mars Company created the Milky Way in 1923. The introduction of a sweetened caramel substance in the middle significantly reduced the amount of chocolate per bar. This made it possible for Mars to outcompete Hershey’s by selling their bars at a cheaper price. From this point on, chocolate worldwide was being mass-produced and consumed on a daily basis.

It is clearly evident that the addition of sugar to chocolate recipes was conducive to the shift in chocolate consumption patterns. Its desirable and addictive properties combined with its cheap production costs explain how chocolate went from being a drink of the elite to a daily snack of the masses. While there are certainly other factors that contributed to this shift, sugar’s influence is undoubtedly justified.

Works Cited

  1. Coe, S., & Coe, M. (2013). Chocolate conquers Europe. In The true history of chocolate (Third ed.). New York: Thames and Hudson.
  2. Image. Accessed 3.08.15. <http://www.sugarcraft.com/catalog/candies/HERSHEYS1934.jpg>
  3. Image. Accessed 3.08.15. <http://buytheway.annenbergcourse.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/herseykisses.gif>
  4. Image. Accessed 3.08.15. <http://kayakdave.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Milky-Way-Bar-Split.jpg>
  5. Mintz, S. (1985). Sweetness and power: The place of sugar in modern history. New York, N.Y.: Viking.
  6. Presilla, M. (2009). A natural and cultural history of chocolate. In The new taste of chocolate: A cultural and natural history of cacao with recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.