Tag Archives: Thurs11

Comparing Brands and Products Found at Chain Stores

As we’ve discussed this semester, throughout history, chocolate has grown from a form of currency in Mesoamerica, to a drink for the elite in Europe, into the solid form we know and love today that makes up the chocolate industry that brings in an estimated 110 billion dollars every year, according to “Cocoa-nomics”, a CNN article that is apart of their CNN Freedom Project. This industry is made up of large manufacturing companies, such as Hershey and Mars, chocolatiers (who use already-made chocolate to create something new), and craft chocolate makers, who are small companies and are usually bean-to-bar manufacturers. All three types produce chocolate that is, in most cases, distributed nationally, or even internationally, but there are a few companies that only sell locally. Most big name chain stores like CVS, Wal-Mart, and 7-11 carry only the chocolate made by the “big five” manufacturing conglomerates: Hershey, Mars, Ferrero, Cadbury, and Nestle, and possibly a few various other smaller, yet still internationally recognizable, brands. One would be hard-pressed to find chocolate from craft chocolate manufacturers in big chain stores, however, some national stores that pride themselves on stocking smaller, more socially conscious brands, such as Whole Foods and Central Market, will carry products from these craft chocolate companies. My goal was to analyze the selection of chocolate that a local brand name store, in this case CVS, carried and what kinds of different aspects of each brand I noticed when looking at them.

Walking into a chain store like CVS, it is easy to spot the candy aisle with a broad assortment of candies, and more specifically, chocolates that people have come to be familiar with. At first glance, there are dozens of options for one to choose from, whether it is Kit Kat, Milky Way, Toblerone, or one of many other choices offered; however, after a quick glance at the back of the wrapper, it is possible to see that almost all of the available choices are all made by the same two or three companies. Milky Way, Twix, Three Musketeers, Dove, and M&M are all manufactured by Mars Inc., while Kit Kat, Reese’s, Whoppers, Symphony, and others are manufactured by Hershey. That represents a large portion of chocolate that people consume, and it’s all made by only two companies, so while there is an illusion of choice when it comes to chocolate, it is an industry consistently dominated by two or three companies. The companies that have established themselves as the major players in the chocolate industry have, without coincidence, been in business since the very early days of solid chocolate, and in some cases like Nestle and Lindt, have invented the processes that made some of the products that are popular today possible. Hershey and Mars have a long history between them, and actually used to be allies before becoming big rivals in the industry. In The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars, by Joël Glenn Brenner, he details the little known trading of information between the two companies during World War II which changed the chocolate landscape forever. Hershey sent technology and information to Mars (for M&M’s) in order to help them manufacture for the military, but Mars “exploited the opportunity. Brenner notes that, “Few people outside the industry are aware of this part of M&M’s success. Neither company is quick to advertise it. But the truth is, the histories of these two industry rivals are closely intertwined,” and goes on to make the bold claim that, “one could argue that Mars would not have succeeded without Hershey, and vice versa” (Brenner 48).


While the “big five” companies have been around for close to a century, if not longer, last few decades has brought about the rise of craft chocolate makers, who also benefit from the rise of both social and health consciousness. While each company has a different reason for doing what they do, craft companies have caught on with customers who strive to make an impact on changing how the chocolate and food industry treats both laborers and the environment. A Washington Post article detailed the founding of several different craft chocolate companies and the reasons behind each, and each had different motivations for why they decided to start making chocolate. Adam Kavalier, who launched Undone Chocolate with his wife, wanted to merge his knowledge of science with his love for chocolate. According to the article, Kavalier, who has a PhD in plant biochemistry, “started looking at the chemical makeup of chocolate using a process called mass spectrometry. He has placed an emphasis on antioxidants and on determining how the type of bean and the way it’s treated affect the amount of antioxidants that end up in the chocolate.” He took his expertise from his educational background and turned it into a successful craft chocolate company. Another example from the Washington Post article was that, “When Colin and Sarah Hartman, the married co-founders of Concept C, decided to launch their brand, they had a different health interest in mind: that of the rain forests in Sarah’s native Brazil.” They both were in graduate school together at Penn, Sarah for sustainability, Colin for business, and came up with an idea to use chocolate to help create environmental sustainability and restoration of the rain forests in Brazil, where they frequently travel to do research and build their brand.

Although the same few companies make all of these popular chocolate products found in stores, one thing that is interesting to note from these different brands is how they are marketed to their target audience. For instance, although M&M’s and Dove Chocolates are both manufactured by Mars, Dove is branded as a smoother, more elegant, higher class product (which is reflected by the price point), whereas M&M’s are more of an everyman’s candy, good for any type of person or event, and it is a lower price point which goes hand-in-hand with how it is marketed. I noticed that the products that were branded with a sense of high class to them (Cadbury Chocolate, for example) were also priced higher than the standard, familiar products. The marketing and packaging of these products was one of the main factors in determining at what kind of price point they were available to consumers.

Cadbury Milk Cadbury 73.4¢/oz
Symphony Hershey 55.8¢/oz
Hershey’s Milk Hershey 53.9¢/oz
Hershey’s White Hershey 59.3¢/oz
Russell Stover Assrmt. Russell Stover 83.3¢/oz
Lindt Assorted Lindt 210¢/oz
Ghirardelli Caramel Ghirardelli 109¢/oz
Milky Way Mars 46.7¢/oz

As one can see from this chart, the companies that do a very good job of branding themselves as luxury, high class brands (i.e. Ghirardelli and Lindt), are able to price their products a little higher than normal because they have done a great job marketing their product as superior and very fine. Also to be noted from this chart is the fact that two companies that pride themselves on signature packaging, Russell Stover and Cadbury, with the packaged boxes and purple wrappers, respectively, were able to also have their prices be higher than the standard chocolate bar manufactured by Hershey’s or Mars. Those two companies, two of the biggest chocolate producers in the world, sell enough chocolate by sheer volume that they don’t depend on the higher price points in order to gain revenue, like a Ghirardelli might. This means that their packaging and branding is able to be a little more “common” and less flashy and convincing because their brands are well-known enough to sell without those things. The packaging of these products from the “big five” found in stores like CVS is very different from bars we have in class seen from smaller, craft companies. Only one bar in the store had any reference to their process for making the chocolate, and that was Ghirardelli, and none of the bars examined had any mention of where their cacao beans came from or whether or not they were from Fair Trade production.


The packaging details the process which we learned in class, from selecting beans all the way to conching, in order to get the texture and melting right on the finished product. Many craft chocolate companies include where they get their beans and advertise the fact that they value social issues like workers’ rights and the environmental impact of their manufacturing, but information on those things were nowhere to be found on the packaging of the large brands’ products. They don’t need to sell their brand on those specific things like certain craft companies do to attract a niche group of customers, so they leave it off their packaging. Despite this omission on their packaging, on Mars.com and Thehersheycompany.com, the official websites of Mars and Hershey, respectively, they do have sections where they describe what kinds of efforts they make to ensure both environmental sustainability and human rights. In this day and age, it is demanded of companies to be open and transparent in their business practices in order to show their customers and the chocolate/food community that they are proponents of Fair Trade practices.

Wrapping up (no pun intended), I think that while there is an appearance of diversity within the chocolate, a lot of the products that people see everyday and have come to know and enjoy are really under the manufacturing umbrella of the same two or three companies. The main takeaway from the analysis of the chocolate selection at a big chain store like CVS, is that a large part of the differential in price comes from how the brand chooses to market and package its products. This is why the advertising aspect of the chocolate industry is so crucial to a company and product’s success, and also why their ads come under so much scrutiny to get them perfect. Smaller, craft companies are very likely to use their morals and values to attract a certain customer base, whereas the established, big name brands have more success playing to the strength of their brands to sell product. Overall, the products tasted a very similar quality, and the price point is really a reflection of how the companies choose to brand, market, and advertise their products.

Works Cited

Brenner, Joël Glenn. The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars. New York: Random House, 1999. Print.

Krystal, Becky. “Washington’s Craft Chocolate Industry Continues to Grow.” Washington Post 10 Feb. 2015: n. pag. Washington Post. Web.

Schumm, Laura. “The Wartime Origins of the M&M.” History Channel. N.p., 2 June 2014. Web. 6 May 2015.

Torre, Inez, and Bryony Jones. “Cocoa-nomics.” CNN. N.p., 27 Feb. 2014. Web.

Ritual Chocolate

In my final post, I will analyze the artisan chocolate maker Ritual Chocolate and how their product and philosophy emblemizes the nuanced relationship that chocolate consumers should have with the product they consume and the relationship that chocolate vendors should have with their suppliers.  Our final in class tasting inspired me to write about Ritual Chocolate because their product was my favorite of all the ones we tasted this year (so be forewarned, I am biased), but I also explored their website during class and was intrigued by the image they wished to project and how the company wished to relate to the world around it.  Ritual is a company that solves many of the issues that the modern world has with chocolate.  Their brand is unique from much of what modern American consumers consider as chocolate because Ritual is intimately involved with and respects the craft of producing chocolate; values the relationship it has with its suppliers; respects the origins of the plant and the terroir of beans from different areas; and is in-tune with the whole process of creating the product.  Ritual Chocolate invites the consumer to understand and appreciate its product while enjoying the taste, and it does so with the clear intention of quality over quantity.

The ideas behind Ritual chocolate can be found in the video on their website which shows cofounders Robbie Stout and Anna Davies discussing the product, shown here.  In the video, Robbie and Anna reveal their belief that chocolate making is a craft in which being involved, as owners, and “bringing out something beautiful” in their chocolate is of utmost importance to them.  This sentiment is in direct contradiction to the process that the Big Five chocolate companies take, as stated by Lawrence Allen (2010) that emphasizes the efficient use of capital in order to dominate smaller companies and assert their control over the chocolate market.  The market-driven approach, though not necessarily “bad” in the conventional sense of the word, is antithetical to the concept of chocolate making as a craft.  Robbie and Anna even take the position that the more difficult the process is, the better.  This is a very unique approach in business because it, in effect, holds revenue constant but increase expense (though not necessarily monetary).  The founders of Ritual Chocolate, therefore, have identified some of the issues surrounding modern chocolate: it is driven by market demand for cheap satisfaction and disregarding the art that chocolate making is.  By abandoning this model, Ritual commits to transforming the relationship that the world has with its chocolate and, in a sense, paying homage to the origins of the product.  While the chocolate is not placed on such a high pedestal that it must be served from silver gourds as the French did in the 1500s, Ritual Chocolate’s appreciation of the craft brings welcome change that buck the trends of modernization.

Ritual Chocolate Bars

Chocolate is often grouped into one large category as a type of food, and though the average consumer has a murky understanding of the difference between milk and dark, it does not go far beyond that.  However, this may not be entirely the fault of the consumer: most standard chocolate bars do not say much about the origin of their cacao.  Ritual chocolate is different on multiple levels.  Firstly, their packaging clearly indicates the origin of the cacao in the bar, which is pictured here.  It interestingly does not indicate much else, which is in sharp contrast to a bar such as the Yorkie (which we sampled in section) that sends a clear message about what kind of consumer it wants to attract.  A previous post of mine was devoted to the cheap tricks of candy wrappers that devote much energy to the color and message of the packaging to control how the brains of consumers react and compel them to impulse buy (Beneke et.al. 2015).  Secondly, in the promotional video for the website, Robbie spends much time detailing the origins of his cacao and how the terroir of each region contributes to the nature of the finished product.  As we learned from class, terroir is “a sense of place,” a combination of effects from the local environment that affect a product.  Robbie dictates that chocolate from Madagascar tastes like fruits and nuts while chocolate from Ecuador tastes like honey and “has a floral flavor to it” and, furthermore, the chocolate from Peru is “light and delicate” due to the nature of the soil that it is grown in.  This shows that Robbie and Anna are very much in tune with the foundations of chocolate and are committed to varying consumer experiences by varying the source of the bean alone.  This is a progressive stance in modern chocolate making that redefines the chocolate maker’s relationship to his or her product.

One of the most troubling relationships that chocolate makers are involved in is the one with their suppliers.  The use of slave labor on cacao plantations has been an issue for centuries, and according to Carol Off (2006), there were startling cases of abusive child labor as late as the 1990s on many cacao plantations in West Africa.  Even today, many cacao farmers do not make enough to sustain themselves and their families.  There are many factors that have led to such dire circumstances and the burden of fault does not entirely fall upon chocolate makers, but at least some part of the issue lies in the aggressive pursuit of small profit margins by large corporations that do not seek quality cacao but rather large quantities of it at the lowest price possible.  Ritual Chocolate is progressive in its relationship with the farmer because they commit to supporting their suppliers and putting their values into their product.  The latter is an important concept because often we see a divorce between values and business in the modern world, but Robbie and Anna at least claim to stick to their values in their business.

West African Cacao Farmes

They pay more for their cacao because it gives them good flavor, and this in turn supports their relationship with their suppliers and also helps their suppliers lead better lives.  Additionally, Ritual views its chocolate making as refining of what farmers have already done, attributing to suppliers credit that often goes overlooked.  However, I will offer a bit of criticism to their buying practices: looking at the origin of their cacao bars, one can easily see that none of their cacao originates from West Africa, which is where much of the world’s cacao is produced and where there is much hardship for farmers.  As discussed in class, it seems that many bean-to-bar chocolate makers are biased against West African cacao.  It is likely that because of the mass growing practices in the area spurred by large corporations, smaller chocolate makers cannot find quality cacao in the area, but the absence of West African cacao in Ritual’s product line is still worth noting because the visibility of West Africa among many consumers is very low (Leissle 2013).

Ritual Chocolate is in tune with not only its suppliers and the origins of its cacao but also its entire production process as well.  The company also makes public knowledge of its process a priority as the production process encompasses the majority of the text on the website.  Anna and Robbie are involved in all parts of the production process: sorting, roasting, winnowing, conching, and aging.  There are several ethical and progressive aspects to their process that are important to note.  Ritual hand sorts their cacao beans rather than using an industrial sorter because the staff can better ensure that only quality beans move into further stages of production.  They also roast their beans with not only the intention of loosening the husk but also in order to kill bacteria that could be harmful to the consumer while preserving the combination of flavors present in the bean.  In the conching and refining process, they ensure that no water enters the mixture so that the sugar does not dissolve into the chocolate.  Finally, they age their chocolate for better taste and vary the length of the process based on the location from which they get their cacao.  The details that Ritual adheres to in their process reveals much about their mission and values: they want to produce the best product for their consumer and also respect the bean that they are dealing with.

Robbie and Anna

Amongst the great values associated with Ritual Chocolate, the most interesting one is their commitment to growth, growth not of profits, but of their knowledge of their product.  At the end of their video, Anna and Robbie profess that they want to take additional steps to travel and learn more about cacao.  This process will continue to enrich their product and will continue to serve as a model for their fellow chocolate makers.  Ritual Chocolate is progressive, ethical, and sustainable chocolate maker.  It preserves the art of chocolate making and respects nature, suppliers, and its consumer.  Ritual is a model of high quality and care that contrasts with modern mass markets and preserves the ethics and art of chocolate making.





Note: many descriptions come from http://www.ritualchocolate.com/, the website of Ritual Chocolate

Allen, L. (2010).  Chocolate fortunes: The battle for the hearts, minds, and wallets of China’s consumers.  New York, NY: AMACOM  Books.

Beneke, J., et.al. (2015).  Chocolate, colour and consideration: an exploratory study of consumer response to packaging variaetion in the South African confectionery sector.  International Journal of Marketing Studies, 7(1), 55-65.

Leissle, K. (2013).  Invisible west Africa: The politics of single origin chocolate.  Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, 13(3), 22-31.

Off, C. (2006).  Bitter chocolate: The dark side of the world’s most seductive sweet.  Toronto, CA: Random House Canada.

The Influence of Advertising on the Changing Roles of Chocolate in our lives

“Chocolate is universal. Everyone loves chocolate.” According to my chocolate loving sister, who is in her mid 20s, it is unfathomable to think that someone could ever hate chocolate. Since her first taste of chocolate as a child to even now as an adult, her love for the sweetness of chocolate hasn’t changed. However, the importance of chocolate and the role that chocolate plays in her life are now very different. After an interview with my sister Cathy, I learned about her evolving relationship with chocolate and wanted to understand why the significance of chocolate in her life has changed. As a child, chocolate was simply a food item to satisfy her craving for something sweet. As an adult, she now consumes chocolate to indulge, to share with others, to relieve stress, to gain quick energy and so much more. I believe that the increased complexity of chocolate in our lives has been influenced by established customs and social norms shaped by the history of chocolate advertising. Advertisements are successful in changing the role of chocolate in our lives because they manipulate our desire to be liked in society, which is driven by our fear of being an outsider by going against a culturally accepted belief that everyone loves chocolate.

Cathy’s motivation to eat chocolate as a child was influenced by her innate preference for sugar and recalls that she did not differentiate brands of chocolate based on quality. “When I was younger, I didn’t care what kind of chocolate I was eating. I just ate it because it tasted good” says Cathy.  Cathy and other children might have similar attitudes towards chocolate at this young age because they are still growing and developing their own judgements about what is acceptable in society. However, chocolate advertisements have engrained in children at a young age that it is culturally acceptable to love chocolate. Especially when children are very young and have not developed reading skills, advertisements targeted at children focus on the theme of chocolate “tasting good.” In addition, chocolate advertisers rely on visually stimulating advertising devoid of dialogue or a lot of words for this young audience. As we can see in this commercial for Hershey’s kisses,

Hershey wants to convey a sense of fantasy surrounding the chocolate making process by having Hershey’s kisses come to life. From the beginning, we see a machine that essentially breathes life into a chocolate kiss as it now begins to take us on a journey. By watching this, children are placed in the perspective of a Hershey’s kiss. During the span of 30 seconds, they are flung across the room and go on an exciting rollercoaster ride, to land on a red carpet where hundreds of other Hershey kisses are cheering. The music theme of the commercial is also “Off to work we go” which is the tune of a children’s fantasy tale, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. A majority of children growing up in America grew up reading and watching the Disney movie about this tale. When they hear this tune, they can recognize this familiar song as one of their favorites, and connect the joy of eating chocolate to one of their favorite Disney movies. The end of the commercial focuses on a young boy giving a Hershey’s kiss to his mom and the mom lovingly looking back at the boy for the gift. As a young child, receiving love from one’s parent is a desire that children experience. Even at a young age, children can internalize this commercial by connecting chocolate with love. This Hershey’s kiss advertisement is one of the few examples of how advertising from a young age reinforces a universal belief that everyone should love chocolate. For children, this universal belief can stem from the desire of a child to be loved by their parents. Advertisers can thus capitalize on this fear in children by suggesting that not having the experience of sharing chocolate with their parents could make them less loved in society.

Furthermore, advertisements teach children that chocolate can be used as a social activity with friends and family because of the perceived notion that everyone loves chocolate. Through my interview with Cathy, she recalls that one of the advertisements that really caught her attention at a young age was this commercial of Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup.

Here we hear the catchy tune of “Stir it up” and the laughs of children drinking this chocolate milk made with chocolate syrup. By showing us the different environments in which to drink this chocolate milk, whether it be with friends, outside on a picnic, or with your mom in the kitchen, children can make the connection at a young age that drinking or eating chocolate is an acceptable social activity. It leaves this message that if all of these kids are enjoying the fun of drinking chocolate milk, then you should too! When talking with Cathy, she recalls that this advertisement made her feel that she was missing out. After watching the commercial, she remembers immediately asking her mom to go to the grocery store to buy Hershey’s chocolate syrup so she can join the fun of making milk chocolate. Even at a young age, advertising has influenced children to establish cultural norms that eating chocolate is acceptable and that one would be missing out if one didn’t accept this belief.

Once this fundamental belief is established as a child that chocolate is universally accepted by everyone, advertisements can create more reasons for consuming chocolate by taking advantage of this inherent desire in adults to be accepted for liking chocolate. Reasons for consuming chocolate have in fact drastically changed in Cathy’s life. “When I was little, I liked eating chocolate because it tasted good. Now I only eat chocolate for special occasions. Sometimes I eat chocolate as a dessert to enjoy, for an afternoon snack, or when I need energy or a pick me up. I sometimes use chocolate as a stress reliever, but I try to eat a little bit at a time because I know I shouldn’t indulge in chocolate too much.” All of these reasons for eating chocolate that Cathy listed can be traced to the history in which chocolate was advertised to an adult. In the late 1800s to the 1900s, the Industrial Revolution brought about new innovations that led to the development of a mechanized process of manufacturing large amounts of chocolate. Thus, new corporations such as Hershey and Mars Company made chocolate affordable and accessible to all classes but still had a huge responsibility to educate consumers on why they need chocolate (Coe & Coe 234). Early advertisements actually focused on using chocolate as a means for nutritional energy.

Hershey’s milk chocolate is a meal in itself. Chocolate advertisement circulated around 1910 to 1920.

This ad that circulated around 1910 to 1920 has the title, “Hershey’s Milk Chocolate” with the caption at the bottom, “A meal in itself”. In the early 20th century, nutritionists recommended chocolate and cocoa as part of a balanced nutritional diet because historically chocolate had been praised as a wonder food after the conquest of the Aztecs by the Spanish Conquistadors in the early 1500s (Coe & Coe 136). In the center is an upper class woman buying chocolate in the store with children around her all smiling. During this time period, women are perceived in society as caretakers of children in society, with the pressures to have social class. This ad elevates the status of this woman for buying chocolate as a meal for her children and herself by promoting the belief that chocolate was nutritious for the family.

While that ad introduces the acceptability for women to eat chocolate as a meal, this Cadbury ad promotes chocolate as a source of energy and manliness. Here we see a firefighter from the early 20th century who is taking his time to drink hot chocolate amidst his busy workday to extinguish fires. The ad is titled, “Cadbury’s cocoa – Makes strong men stronger”. The subtitle writes, “The most refreshing, nutritious, and sustaining of all cocoas.”

Early 20th century poster claiming that Cadbury’s cocoa makes men stronger.

This ad exemplifies an ideal man, who is busy at work and conveys a sense of power because of his legitimate uniform. By educating consumers that this is “nutritious” and that it “makes strong men stronger,” these messages confirm the hypothesis that ad have historically created the social norm that chocolate should be eaten as food. When Hershey’s was first introduced in the United States, many people did not like the taste. However, the advertising messages such as these two above changed consumers’ preferences for this taste because big companies wanted to change the social perception of chocolate as food.

Ironically, only a small percent of cocoa beans are actually in these chocolate bars advertised by Hershey’s or Cadbury and these small amounts cannot provide significant health benefits. However, the power of advertising over the past decade is described in detail in Samira Kawash’s book, “Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure”. The author describes the social changes that have allowed America to become such a candy eating nation. For example, athletes would swear on the performance boosting powers of candy and scientists insisted that even chocolate has health benefits. We can see how the influence of these early advertisements established these social norms that candy or chocolate is food. “The story of candy in America is a story of how the processed, the artificial, and the fake came to be embraced as real food. And it’s also the story of how it happened that so much of what we call real food today is really candy” (Kawash 26).  In fact, the most popular chocolate products on the market are able to mass produce so effectively across the world because these manufacturers try to minimize the most expensive content of the raw material of chocolate in order to gain massive profits (Cidell 2006).

Cathy similar to most women in her mid 20s also use chocolate as a luxury to indulge. During our interview, she repeatedly mentioned this idea that she needs to control the amount of chocolate she eats. “When I was younger, I didn’t have the choice to buy chocolate because my parents would never buy it for us. But now as I am older, I see chocolate more as a luxury. Even if it’s accessible at the drug store, I see it as an indulgence and want to save it for a special occasion or when I really need it.” Cathy seems to hold onto this view that even as an independent adult who has the financial means to buy chocolate, she feels the need to control her desire to give into her indulgence. She is not the only one who has these thoughts because advertisers have created a pervasive culture that chocolate is an indulgence, and thus wanting us to crave it more. Here is an example of a modern advertisement that highlights this message.

Advertisement by company, Filthy – obsessed by pleasure. “Indulge your obsession for chocolate.”

This company is encouraging a message to consumers to finally give into their obsession for chocolate and to indulge themselves. This advertisement takes advantage of this idea that chocolate is bad but encouraging consumers to be proud of giving into the sin of chocolate. According to an article written about the changing roles of chocolate, the author Robertson writes how chocolate is marketed to adult woman by associating chocolate with this ideal of beauty as seen in this slender women being wrapped by a chocolate dress. “The chocolates thus gain in value through association both with a dynamic adventure/romance narrative and with an imagined ideal of feminine beauty” (Robertson Ch.2). This advertisement is an example highlighting the pervasive culture that everyone is obsessed with chocolate. Even though children were obsessed with chocolate for its sweet taste, a new culture exists for adults that are obsessed with chocolate for its perception of luxury and feminine beauty.

By comparing the advertisements that target children versus adults, we see the influence of the media that shape the role of chocolate in our lives. Advertisements teach children at an early age that eating chocolate is socially acceptable. We unconsciously believe that if we don’t experience the joy of chocolate, we will be missing out on love and life. As we get older, the media capitalizes on this fear by introducing other roles of chocolate in our lives. For example, the fear of not being manly, or feminine, or experiencing a luxury, are insecure thoughts that advertisers capitalize on by introducing the role of chocolate as a way to combat those fears. At the end of the interview, I asked Cathy why she liked dark chocolate now. She replied that she got used to the taste. But I concluded the interview with a thought question, “Do you like dark chocolate for fear of missing out on a universally accepted trend?”


Cidell, Julie L., and Heike C. Alberts. “Constructing quality: the multinational histories of chocolate.” Geoforum 37.6 (2006): 999-1007.

Coe, Sophie D., Michael D. Coe, and Ryan J. Huxtable. The true history of chocolate. London: Thames and Hudson, 1996.

Kawash, Samira. Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure. Macmillan, 2013.

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

Market in the Square and the Artisan Chocolate Dilemma

Market in the Square prides itself on offering products both local and international, products of “a higher quality” that customers can rely on and enjoy.[i] Products range from potato chips, to pasta chips, to sushi, various cheeses around the world and finally, various types of chocolate. Market, to the untrained eye would seem a perfect example of where we might find real artisan chocolate, produced by chocolatiers outside the capitalist conglomerates that monopolize the chocolate market. Upon analyzing the chocolate section of Market in the Square, it became even more apparent that artisan chocolate is slowly giving way to the industrial machine of the chocolate industry: high end chocolate is becoming a front through which chocolate corporations maintain a hold on the chocolate industry. In careful analysis of the Perugino, Green & Black’s and Chuao brands, this becomes overwhelmingly evident. Luxury, artisan chocolate is not safe from the sway of chocolate politics. With the growing demand for fair trade and organic beans, big chocolate companies are intent upon acquiring artisan chocolatiers and maintaining their share of the chocolate market.

Market in the Square storefront

At first glance, Market in the Square seems to live up to its reputation and apparent status as a purveyor of all things exotic and fresh. In addition to acting as a short of convenience store, Market has a deli and hot foods section that features a wide array of foods (international delicacies as well), fresh fruit and a sandwich selection sponsored by Boars Head that during lunchtime is quite popular. Beverages offered are fancier than the Pepsi and Coke dichotomy found at just any super market or small chain store. Pellegrino and pomegranate juice fill the fridges, near various coconut juices and flavored waters intent full of vitamin supplements. True, the store definitely includes the lower end, mass produced drinks most commonly found and drunk in the states, like Pepsi, Coke and Gatorade, but these are tucked away in areas where they can’t actually be seen. Essentially, the atmosphere one could glean from Market is that it caters to an audience that seeks international treats, a customer base that is health conscious and aware of food trends and fads. This isn’t Star Market; it’s Market in the Square. Given that sort of characterization, we expect to find the same sort of selection among the chocolates offered in Market, perhaps smaller, local chocolatiers, Taza for example, or something on the artisan level. Instead, I observed a different trend.

The shelf that featured the chocolate selection offered at Market looked from a distance like it was full of artisan chocolate, imported, healthy, socially conscious, maybe even organic (although Market certainly made no promises about that). On the top shelf, we see bars produced by Lindt, Perugina, Green & Black’s (an organic bar), and Cadbury. The Lindt and Cadbury bars both fall solidly into the category of big company bars. Both companies represent a large share of the chocolate market, adept at chocolate mass-production, and serving in some sense, as the baseline European chocolate bar. It became very clear that the products offered by Cadbury and Lindt in Market were higher end products meant to target the health conscious, internationally-crazed consumers that might shop there. At first glance, these look like small-time, bean to bar, chocolatiers to the untrained eye. The packaging is of both the Lindt bars and Cadbury bars is fancy, eye catching, enough to match the presumed grandeur of the Perugina and Green & Black’s bars sandwiched between them. The biggest surprise, however, came in researching the Perugina and Green & Black’s bars.

Perugina is an Italian-based company, boasting an impressive chocolate production resume. The bars found in Market were of different flavors, but all with cocoa content of higher than 50% and boasting natural ingredients. Upon further inspection we understand that it was created in 1907 by Giovanni Buitoni and Luisa Spagnoli. The company grew and grew developing chain stores all over Italy and creating a product similar to the Hershey’s kiss, the Baci. It boasts a sense of “responsibility” about chocolate making and a focus even despite its size on “local community.”[ii] The factory in which Perugina distributes chocolate is on a solar farm that employs 1100 people and even built a nursery for employees’ children, very clearly putting emphasis on family values. [iii] In 1988, however, Perugina was bought and remains a part of the Nestle Company.[iv] What appeared to be an independent, somewhat socially conscious company was in fact owned by Nestle, one of the five largest chocolate producers in the market. Perugina produces and distributes chocolate, maintaining principles of social responsibility under the larger umbrella of a chocolate company widely known as a proprietor of several labor malpractices (including continued use of child labor) in the larger chocolate production arena.[v] Market in the Square, it seems, wasn’t offering artisan chocolate, but rather chocolate packaged in the trappings of artisan chocolate.

Perugina chocolate bar, 85% cacao

The same sort of phenomenon, in which large, well-known chocolate conglomerates attempt to use the front of smaller chocolatiers to make a profit, was true of the Green & Black’s bar. Co-founded by Craig Sams and Jo Fairly in 1991, Green & Black’s is an organic chocolatier focused on “ethical trading” which is at the brand’s core and very much a part of it’s social message. In fact, Green & Black’s was proclaimed the first Fairtrade chocolate product in the UK, specifically for their Maya Gold chocolate bar.[vi] Green & Black’s attention to organic ingredients and pursuit of Fairtrade practices made it unique as a growing chocolate company. It is likely, for these reasons that Cadbury “gobbled” up the company in 2005, in an attempt to boost it’s own credentials as a healthier, more ethical chocolate producer.[vii] Once again, gone was the individual artisan chocolatier, consumed instead by the brute market force of companies like Cadbury and Nestle.

Green & Black's organic Chocolate bars.
Green & Black’s organic Chocolate bars.

Tucked away in a corner, with its own small offering of variety, was the relative saving grace of my encounter at Market. With a total of ten bars was a small variety of a chocolatier called Chuao. Though not organic, some research found that the company, based out of the U.S but run by two Venezuelan brothers dedicated to making a quality chocolate product out of the Chuao region of Venezuela. The Food Empowerment Project listed as one of the chocolatiers recommended to purchase from, as fair and devoid of child slavery practices.[viii] The chocolate is also vegan and though not organic, seems to celebrate ethical production processes. It remains free of the big chocolate production companies, and operates outside of the sphere of control spread by companies like Nestle and Cadbury. Chuao chocolate is even offered at high-end markets like Whole Foods and Dean and Deluca, the former of which stresses fair practices and all natural ingredients. Though Chuao and chocolatiers like it seem to be in the minority and represent a small portion of the larger chocolate market, Chuao’s presence in Market in the Square reminds us of the persistence of true artisan chocolate.

Chuao Chocolatier's variety of chocolate bars
Chuao Chocolatier’s variety of chocolate bars

With the rise of fair trade and organic concerns surrounding beans, the demand for chocolate that offers the same is high in demand.[ix] Eber and Williams discuss this in their book, Raising the Bar, mentioning how individual chocolatiers in 2003 “couldn’t find brokers to sell [them] fair trade and organic beans.”[x] Now, farms that produce organically and ethically are finding an even greater market in a more health conscious, internationally aware set of consumers. Big chocolate companies are noticing this, and the low cocoa content, non-fair trade, non-organic bars of the past are slowly moving out of trend. What I noticed at Market cemented this idea of encroachment of big companies on the chocolatier model. Nestle and Cadbury have both, in purchasing Perugino and Green & Black’s have made attempts to stay abreast of the health and ethically conscious trends of recent generations. At the same time, chocolatiers like Chuao are trying their best to remain independent and true to value in the ever expanding influence of the big chocolate companies. This, of course leaves us with several questions about the future of the artisan chocolate market. While there is clearly growing demand for the product that artisan chocolatiers tend to produce, the chocolatiers themselves seem to be falling victim to large chocolate companies at a similarly growing pace. Where then lies the future of artisan chocolatiers?

[i] “Market in the Square | Home.” Market in the Square | Home. N.p., n.d. Web. http://www.marketinthesquare.org/

[ii] Perugina – La Storia.” Perugina – La Storia. Perugina, n.d. Web. https://www.perugina.it/it/azienda/storia

[iii] Responsabilità Sociale.” Perugina. N.p., n.d. Web. https://www.perugina.it/it/azienda/responsabilita-sociale

[iv] Newman, Andrew Adam. “An Italian Chocolatier Revives Its U.S. Campaign.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 12 Dec. 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/13/business/media/chocolate-maker-perugina-resumes-ads-in-the-united-states.html

[v] Hawksley, Humphrey. “Nestle ‘failing’ on Child Labour Abuse, Says FLA Report – BBC News.” BBC News. BBC, 29 June 2012. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-18644870

[vi] About Us | Green & Black’s.” Green & Black’s. Green & Black’s, http://us.greenandblacks.com/about-us

[vii] Hawksley, Humphrey. “Nestle ‘failing’ on Child Labour Abuse, Says FLA Report – BBC News.” BBC News. BBC, 29 June 2012. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/4543583.stm

[viii] F.E.P.’s Chocolate List.” F.E.P.’s Chocolate List. Food Empowerment Project, http://www.foodispower.org/chocolate-list/

[ix] Williams, Pam and Jim Eber. 2012. Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate. 207

[x] Williams, Pam and Jim Eber. 2012. Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate. 207

Work Cited

“About Us | Green & Black’s.” Green & Black’s. Green & Black’s, n.d. Web. 03 May 2015. <http://us.greenandblacks.com/about-us&gt;.

“Cadbury Gobbles Up Organic Rival.” BBC News. BBC, 13 May 2005. Web. 05 May 2015. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/4543583.stm&gt;.

“F.E.P.’s Chocolate List.” F.E.P.’s Chocolate List. Food Empowerment Project, n.d. Web. 03 May 2015. <http://www.foodispower.org/chocolate-list/&gt;.

Hawksley, Humphrey. “Nestle ‘failing’ on Child Labour Abuse, Says FLA Report – BBC News.” BBC News. BBC, 29 June 2012. Web. 05 May 2015. <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-18644870&gt;.

“Market in the Square | Home.” Market in the Square | Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2015. <http://www.marketinthesquare.org/&gt;.

Newman, Andrew Adam. “An Italian Chocolatier Revives Its U.S. Campaign.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 12 Dec. 2011. Web. 05 May 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/13/business/media/chocolate-maker-perugina-resumes-ads-in-the-united-states.html&gt;.

“Perugina – La Storia.” Perugina – La Storia. Perugina, n.d. Web. 05 May 2015. <https://www.perugina.it/it/azienda/storia&gt;.

“Responsabilità Sociale.” Perugina. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 May 2015. <https://www.perugina.it/it/azienda/responsabilita-sociale&gt;.

Image 1: http://www.harvardsquare.com/sites/default/files/marketinthesquare.jpg

Image 2: http://new.perugina.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Screen-Shot-2014-09-29-at-9.04.11-AM.png

Image 3: http://www.genconnect.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Green-and-Blacks-Organic-Chocolate.jpg

Image 4: http://www.notcot.com/images/2012/08/chuao.jpg

Dandelion Chocolate and TCHO Chocolate in the Wider Slow Food Movement

In the world of chocolate consumption today, there are more and more parallels between chocolate and other fine foods, like wine.  This shift is part of a growing trend in the chocolate world toward a more ethical and transparent process of chocolate making.  Undoubtedly, a crucial force in this movement is the producer, in this case being small batch chocolate producers who are also called bean to bar chocolate companies.  These producers often stress the importance of the cocoa bean itself, often only adding one or a few other ingredients in their chocolate bar.  Two of the leading pioneers in this bean to bar industry in San Francisco are Dandelion Chocolate and TCHO Chocolate companies.  These companies have a long list of similarities, from their focus on where their beans come from to how they process their beans.  However a comparison between these two small scale chocolate makers reveals that while the number of bean to bar companies are increasing, even in an industry as small as this, there are fundamental differences between how ethical and transparent these companies and their chocolate truly are; these differences in labor practices, ingredients, sourcing and process are often reflected in how they position themselves within the bean to bar world in their advertising and marketing efforts a reveal systematic issues in the regulation of food and raw materials.

When talking about chocolate as a food, we must contextualize it in how food is seen by our society today.  This movement in the commercial chocolate world from industrial chocolate from big corporations like Hershey, Nestle and Cadbury to these bean to bar “fine chocolate” companies is a microcosm of the wider movement that has been dubbed the “slow food” movement.  This movement is one that involves both the quality of food and thus, the production of food as well.  The founder of this movement, Carlo Petrini sees the detriments of what he calls “fast life” and “fast food,” arguing that both have played a role in the unethical production of food and the loss of true historical flavors of food.  This is very applicable to how chocolate is seen today.  Fine chocolate and chocolate that is produced from beans that are said to have “fine flavor” should be seen as a “turning back” of the clock to a time when the flavor and origins of food meant something.  Terroir is as term that is now used with regards to chocolate flavor because of the differences in flavor geographically.  This connection between the production, flavor and ethics that is so pertinent in the slow food movement is what I will explore in this paper by examining these two “fine chocolate” producers.

In the examination of these two companies’ marketing practice ideas of fair trade and organic certifications will be a vital aspect of how they market themselves; therefore I am obliged to elaborate on what these certifications actually mean.  While Fair Trade USA claims to ensure ethically upstanding labor practices as well as environmental sustainability, it is clear that the failure to monitor standards of products that have been “Fair Trade Certified” undermines the legitimacy of the certification as a whole.  Furthermore, an issue that offers a degree of confusion for the consumer is the fact that there are different fair trade certifying bodies that hold different standards for their certifications.  Organic certifications have their own degree of confusion for the consumer.  A product is legally allowed to be labelled as organic if it has 70% organic products being used.  This is often confused with the 100% Organic USDA certification that ensures that all of the materials used are grown without pesticides of any sort.  As we will see, the use or lack thereof of these certifications reveal a lot about what these bean to bar chocolate companies attempt to show in their advertising.

The first aspect of these companies that I will explore is the labor practices and how they market them.  Historically, the chocolate industry has had enormous problems with the types of labor that are utilized on their farms, including slavery and child labor.  With the Cadbury-slavery case toward the beginning of the 20th century, it seems that questionable labor practices is ubiquitous to industrial chocolate making.  Bean to bar manufacturers are a direct response to these ethical problems with industrial chocolate.  They often label their chocolates as “fair trade” to promote ethical wage practices and the movement against any types of questionable labor.  Now let us look at how Dandelion Chocolate and TCHO Chocolate compare on this issue.

Often in an attempt to dissociate themselves with questionable labor practices, small scale chocolate producers will not buy beans from West Africa, namely the countries of Ghana or the Ivory Coast.  That is why it is quite surprising that both Dandelion and TCHO cite a West African country as one of their sources.  However, they still attempt to dissociate themselves from ethical concerns in different ways.  TCHO states that “In the last few years, important changes in the government-run cacao sector in Ghana allow for “traceable” cacao and new certifications, opening up new possibilities for partnering with farmers and making a difference.”  The first thing to note here is that TCHO does at no point describe what these “changes” are, simply declaring that there are recent developments.  Furthermore, there is no mention of the nature of how cacao is farmed in Ghana, often on very small family farms that produce very small amounts of cocoa.  This makes the traceability claim quite difficult to substantiate, however, for the average chocolate consumer this type of marketing still would be appealing.  The last issue with this quote is that cacao from Ghana is often classified as “bulk” cacao, meaning that there is a lack of depth in the flavor of their bean.  This contradicts the later claim that the Ghanaian chocolate they are making now can be used to “develop that deep ‘chocolatey’ flavor.”


Outside of that statement, there are other problems with how TCHO markets their labor practices.  While they declare that they are dedicated to going “beyond fair trade (which we also support) to partner directly with growers,” only a few of their bars are Fair Trade USA certified.  This begs the question of where the Ghana seems to be only one of four main sources of cocoa for TCHO implying an effort to diversify their chocolate flavor and practices, their bars are not labeled as single origin bars, meaning that they could very well mix beans from different origins thus combining the terroir that would be indicative of a certain part of the world.   That would explain why only a few of their bars are Free Trade Certified and Organic.  As you can see, while efforts in the bean to bar world are made to ensure the ethical sourcing of chocolate, often companies find that is difficult to hold the high standard they have set.

As you can see, not all of these bars are Fair Trade Certified

Dandelion Chocolate also falls short on their effort to be seen as an ethical chocolate maker.  In their marketing, they focus on the quality of the chocolate bean, making it clear to the reader or viewer that they do not mask the flavor of the bean at all by only adding cane sugar as the other ingredient.  That said, when taking a closer look at their sourcing and certifications, other issues arise.  Their sourcing language is as follows: “ We travel to origin as frequently as possible to learn about our producers’ best practices, exchange feedback, and make sure that high standards of quality and sustainability are met. We pay a premium far above the world market price and work to strengthen our relationships year after year in order to maintain our collective commitment to sharing the best and most distinctive cacao.”  The interesting fact here is that even though they state that “they pay a premium far above” the world price and that they believe in “quality and sustainability” their bars are neither Fair Trade Certified nor Organic Certified.  This undermines the illusion that bean to bar companies all believe in fair trade and feed quality standards.  In addition, one of their sources in Liberia which is not one of the top producing cacao countries in the world, but still is part of West Africa, where the dominant type of cacao is considered to be of “bulk” quality.  As you can see, while these two companies approach the marketing of labor practices from different perspectives, issues arise from the close analysis of claims from both of these companies and consumers should thus be conscious of general claims and certifications.

These differences in how Dandelion and TCHO market themselves are indicative of how they want to be seen as part of the bean to bar world.    Dandelion, as can be seen in the video below, want to market the process that they use to create chocolate.  Even though they are a bean to bar manufacturer, it is how they have innovated in the process of chocolate making that they want the consumer to grasp on to. Obviously sourcing of cacao and ingredients play a vital role in this distinction, but as we have seen they lack any legitimate certifications to back up their labor and pricing claims.  TCHO on the other hand takes a different approach in the marketing of their bean to bar chocolate.  Ethical sourcing is the prime maxim of their marketing campaign and they succeed in many aspects of this goal. (i have included the link below).  They even set up tasting centers so that their farmers can taste the chocolate that their beans create.  Yet TCHO falls short where Dandelion succeeds, in the marketing of their process.  While they claim to source all their bars from ethical practices, they also source from Ghana, a country that is known to have child labor currently.  Moreover, they do not specify single-origin bars, leaving the combination of different origin cacao as a concern for the consumer.  This is mirrored in the possible masking of the true flavor and texture of their beans when you look at ingredients with the adding of soy lecithin and vanilla.



While this comparison has, for the most part, been revealing as to the questionable marketing of these bean to bar chocolate makers, the general movement toward small batch chocolate is an overwhelmingly positive movement.  It advocates for the transparency of labor practices, the sustainability of farming, and the movement toward a more educated consumer.  In the analysis of these companies’ marketing shortcomings, it should be noted that often these are the result of structural problems with how cacao is regulated today.  Often these bean to bar companies want to be able to both source and process cacao in an ethical way but are impeded by high prices and labor costs.  This is important because while it is a step in the right direction for food, there is more to be done.  It can be said that the modern “slow food” movement is just beginning.

Scholarly Citations:

Counihan, Carole. Food and Culture: A Reader. New York: Routledge, 1997. Print.

Mikell, Gwendolyn. Cocoa and Chaos in Ghana. New York: Paragon House, 1989. Print.

Nesto, Bill. “Discoveringin the World of Chocolate.” Gastronomica: 131-35. Print.

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

“Not in Harry’s Name”: The Harry Potter Alliance And Its Push for Ethically Sourced Chocolate

Beyond its incredible presence in the real world, chocolate is intimately tied into our imaginations of many fictional worlds as well, especially those aimed at children. From Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to Patrick Skene Catling’s The Chocolate Touch, the link between chocolate and fantasy has been made clear. And even in fantasy worlds in which chocolate does not necessarily play a central role, it can still have great significance. In the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, for example, chocolate is seen as a cure to the depressed state associated with the happiness-sucking dementors, creatures that guard the wizards’ prison. It brings back feelings of warmth and happiness, and as pointed out by David Colbert in his book The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter, “doctors say [chocolate] can make depressed people feel better…[and]…has some of the same effects as the medicine that doctors prescribe” (Colbert 66). We see then that though chocolate is not necessarily a key or central part of the world, it nevertheless has important value beyond just being a food commodity.

This clip from the third Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, shows the harmful effects of the dementors – meant to represent depression – and the value of chocolate, which is portrayed as an effective cure. (“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2/5) Movie CLIP – Dementor on the Train (2004) HD.”)

However, in the real world chocolate has also been linked – historically and in the modern day – to forced labor and slavery, including that of children (“Chocolate’s Child Slaves”; Martin Lecture 15; Lockwood Lecture 14). Especially in recent years, there have been movements to promote ethically sourced chocolate in an effort to reduce and eventually eliminate this slavery (“International Cocoa Initiative”; Martin Lecture 18). Outside of just citing the evils of slavery, the fact that chocolate is in our minds tied to something so fundamentally good and uplifting and that brings the consumer so much joy and pleasure has been part of the push to end the use of slavery in the chocolate supply chain. Because chocolate is viewed in this way, it can be “tarnished” and “polluted” by slavery in a way that we don’t see included in the rhetoric against use of forced labor to make iPhones, for example (Gibson). To focus on one specific group, the Harry Potter Alliance’s Not In Harry’s Name campaign has linked not just the idea of the purity of chocolate but also the idea of the goodness and inspiration of the novels to help motivate their fight against slavery in order to draw people in and get thousands of fans involved. They succeeded in getting Warner Brothers to declare that all Harry Potter chocolate products would be Utz or Fair Trade certified by the end of 2015, which has been lauded as a great success by the consumers and fans. However, this should not turn to complacency, as there are still problems with Fair Trade certification and therefore the so-called “victory” may not be as thorough as hoped, and furthermore working to eliminate unethically sourced chocolate in Harry’s name alone does not account for the vast amount of chocolate produced via forced/child labor that still circulates in the rest of the industry. Moving forward, then, these are some critiques of the movement that should be tackled in order to truly push against modern slavery and for better working conditions across the board.

To go back to the connection between Harry Potter and chocolate, outside of the novels this link can be found in the products made and sold under the Harry Potter brand – specifically confections like the chocolate frogs mentioned in the books. Though there are numerous recipes for makings one’s own chocolate frogs (“Honeydukes’ Chocolate Frogs”) and though there are a few different companies that make them (“Harry Potter Chocolate Frog – 0.55 oz”), the most official version is that created by Warner Brothers, the studio that created the Harry Potter films.

Chocolate Frog

The 150 g solid milk chocolate frogs that form the bulk of the Harry Potter chocolate products, over which the “Not In Harry’s Name” was run to push Warner Brothers to use ethically sourced cocoa for these frogs (“Chocolate Frog – with Authentic Film Packaging.”)

These WB chocolate frogs are available at locations such as the  Harry Potter Theme Park at Universal Studios and the Studio Tour in London, as well as online (“Chocolate Frog – with Authentic Film Packaging.”). These frogs are one of the main food products under the Harry Potter brand, and as such are very popular. However, in 2008 concerns were raised regarding whether the 30.9% cocoa solids content of the frogs was ethically sourced (“Not in Harry’s Name”).. The Harry Potter Alliance (HPA), a group that “turns fans into heroes…by making activism accessible through the power of story [to work for] equality, human rights, and literacy” (“The Harry Potter Alliance: What We Do”) created the “Not in Harry’s Name” campaign to pressure Warner Brothers to investigate their sources and ensure that their Harry Potter chocolate products were Fair Trade certified.

The rhetoric surrounding this campaign focused primarily on the role that chocolate has in the Harry Potter novels and in relation to fantasy and childhood in general, the values that the novels espouse in relation to equality and justice, and the idea that child labor and unethically sourced chocolate are in fundamental contrast to these roles and values, and could in fact ruin the purity of chocolate. Through a close reading of the novels, including the points regarding the effects of chocolate against dementors, we can see an association between chocolate, purity, innocence, and happiness. The Washington Post’s article on the “Not in Harry’s Name” movement phrases it as such:

“Chocolate and candy play an important role in the Harry Potter books. After he leaves his abusive aunt and uncle to attend the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry is boggled by the abundance of sweets his peers have access to; chocolate is a symbol of how Hogwarts will be the first place that really nourishes Harry’s body and his mind. And chocolate is big real-world business in the Harry Potter empire: You can buy Chocolate Frogs, one of the series’ signature sweets.” (Rosenberg).

Citing one of the novels mentioned earlier, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Hamida Bosmajian in 1985 similarly discussed the “pleasing associations of chocolate, whose high concentration of energy-producing compounds combined with caffeine and theobromine makes it truly a food for the gods as well as for those who, like Charlie, are empty buckets of deprivation” (Bosmajian) – as is Harry, too, prior to attending Hogwarts.

Based on these associations, statements such as those seen in this video sought to galvanize Harry Potter fans to sign a petition and protest Warner Brothers’ use of chocolate that had not been certified as ethically sourced.

This video shows a montage of clips that serve to summarize the progression of the “Not in Harry’s Name” campaign and to celebrate the letter the Harry Potter Alliance received from Warner Brothers in December 2014 pledging to make Harry Potter chocolate products UTZ or Fair Trade certified. From this video, we can identify a number of comments and remarks that showcase the types of rhetoric as mentioned above. (“Harry Potter Fans Win Against Child Slavery”).

This video showcasing the movement included quotes such as this one from a speech at the Yule Ball in Cambridge, MA in December 2010:

Speaker: “When you are facing a dementor after a dementor attacked you what is the best thing you should eat?”

Crowd: “Chocolate”

Speaker: “But what if that chocolate was made by a child who was kidnapped from their family and forced into slavery on the Ivory Coast”


Speaker: “The chocolate would not work.”

(“Harry Potter Fans Win Against Child Slavery”)

The HPA Facebook page similarly made a post urging supporters to  “protect your friends and loved ones from using faulty chocolate against Dementor attacks” (“The Harry Potter Alliance Facebook Page” 2013).

This idea that the unethical production of chocolate would sully it enough so that its beneficial effects would be lost speaks to the value that we associate with chocolate, especially so for Harry Potter fans. Another quote from the video states “It doesn’t seem to be too much to ask that something that is for children, essentially, Harry Potter chocolate, should not be sourced by children” (“Harry Potter Fans Win Against Child Slavery”). HPA founder Andrew Slack pushes this point by asking readers to

“Picture a 9 year old enjoying a Chocolate Frog at the Harry Potter theme park in Orlando. She is happy to be a part of JK’s Rowling’s magical world — a world that inspired in this young girl a love for reading and a commitment to human rights. Now imagine a 9 year old boy in West Africa, kidnapped and enslaved… all so that he can harvest the cocoa use to make that very chocolate frog” (Slack).

As we see from these quotes and from the books mentioned at the beginning of this post, chocolate is associated with children and children’s fantasy, and here the interesting contrast is posed between those children who have the chance to enjoy a childhood of this fantasy and consumer products associated with them, and those children who are forced to labor in order to produce the raw materials for these products.

Scholar and University of Southern California professor Henry Jenkins additionally points out that:

“The effort defines HPA members as fans of the franchise and as consumers likely to buy affiliated products, but also mobilizes content-world expertise to challenge studio decisions:

[6.5] When Hermione Granger discovers that the food at Hogwarts, chocolate included, is being made by house elves—essentially unpaid, indentured servants—she immediately starts a campaign to replace exploitation with fairness…In Harry Potter’s world, chocolate holds a unique place: it is a Muggle item with magical properties. Chocolate is featured prominently throughout the books as a powerful remedy for the chilling effects produced by contact with dementors, which are foul creatures that drain peace, hope and happiness from the world around them…It is doubtful that chocolate produced using questionable labor practices would have such positive effect, both in Harry’s world and ours. (Harry Potter Alliance 2010b)

[6.6] Rather than seeing the licensed candies as mere commodities, the HPA evaluates them according to their meaningfulness in the content world and then links their “magical” powers to the ethics of how they are produced and sold: “As consumers of Harry Potter products, we are interested in supporting and purchasing products that are true to the spirit of the Harry Potter franchise.” Throughout its campaign, the HPA holds open the prospect of a meaningful collaboration with corporate interests, but it also pledges to use boycotts and buycotts against the studio and its subcontractors.” (Jenkins)”

Ultimately, through what Andrew Slack calls “cultural acupuncture” – the “practice of mapping the fictional content world onto real-world concerns [to help] empower young people to become civically engaged and politically active” (Jenkins) – the HPA got 400,000 signatures, the support of J.K. Rowling, and finally in December 2014 a letter from Warner Brothers stating that by the end of the following year, all of their Harry Potter chocolate products would be “100 percent Utz or Fair Trade certified” (“Not in Harry’s Name: A History”).

Daily Prophet

Projecting the real-life success of the “Not in Harry’s Name” campaign onto the fictional The Daily Prophet newspaper from the Harry Potter series, this image showcases the sentiments felt by members and supporters of the HPA following the letter from Warner Brothers.


The letter from Warner Brothers to Andrew Slack reveals the plan to make all their Harry Potter chocolate products Utz or Fair Trade certified by the end of 2015 – the victory that the “Not in Harry’s Name” campaign had hoped for.

However, while this was lauded as a victory for the HPA, there remain issues both with the outcome and with the way the campaign was framed. The HPA blog showcases Fair Trade as a sort of panacea for ethical issues associated with chocolate and for the struggles endured by cocoa farmers, stating that Fair Trade International “[ensures] that their products are produced by people making a living wage, and are not being produced with harmful or inhumane practices such as the use of child labor” (O’Brien) and provides “fair exchanges with farmers and artisans” alike [to make] certain that there is enough money to issue better working conditions, health-care, [and] education for the children of the workers” (Simeti). However, as we learned in class Fair Trade is still quite problematic. For one, though in theory Fair Trade should eliminate child labor, because it “does not ensure a direct relationship between producers and buyers” and lacks thorough quality control there have been cases where child labor is still used on Fair Trade-certified cooperatives but has gone unnoticed (“What’s the Difference Between Direct Trade and Fair Trade?”). Therefore, the chocolate in chocolate frogs being Fair Trade certified is not guaranteed to solve the specific problems that the HPA seems to think it will. And beyond this, in reality Fair Trade puts a “significant burden for new producers and manufacturers [who have to pay to be certified], and drains money from the sourcing relationship” (“What’s the Difference Between Direct Trade and Fair Trade?”), making it difficult for small farmers especially. Therefore, while getting Warner Brothers to use Fair Trade certified cocoa is certainly a step in the right direction towards the goal of chocolate being ethically sourced, there is still work to be done – and the fact that the “Not in Harry’s Name” campaign is portrayed as a huge success, and has been covered by many prominent media outlets, can be misleading and affect how the general public sees Fair Trade. Ultimately, a push towards Direct Trade – the sourcing model used by Taza Chocolate, which cuts out the middlemen and provides more benefits to farmers and producers – would be even more desirable (“What’s the Difference Between Direct Trade and Fair Trade?”).

Furthermore, while the use of Harry Potter and all the emotions and values associated with it to galvanize such a huge movement of people in favor of ethically sourced chocolate was immensely creative and has had results, this should not limit the scope of the push against forced and child labor. The statements “We wanted to make sure that child slavery would no longer be carried out in Harry’s name,” “Maybe we can’t end child slavery altogether, but we can at least get Harry’s name out of it,” and “Not in Harry’s name and not in ours either” (“The Harry Potter Alliance Facebook Page” 2015; “Harry Potter Fans Win Against Child Slavery”) were helpful in promoting the movement, but problematic in that they focus too much on the consumer and the value of Harry Potter rather than condemning child slavery in general – though of course I do not think that is the message the campaign intended to send with this. Focusing on Harry Potter was simply a way of rallying this online community to fix specific problems one step at a time, but moving forward this approach needs to be broadened to protest all unethically sourced chocolate, not just those products which happen to be associated with a beloved fantasy world and the ideas of purity and childhood.

Luckily, it seems both issues mentioned here are being addressed: Walk Free, the anti-modern slavery movement that partnered with HPA in its campaign, is “designing and propagating a new certification for slavery-free supply chains” and Slack “hopes to use Warner Bros.’ decision to pressure other chocolate chains, such as Hershey and Nestle, and mobilize fans of other franchises” (Rosenberg). As Slack said,

“If ‘Harry Potter’ [as a franchise] were to be in alignment with the values of Harry Potter [himself], it could be a real symbolic and coherent victory… [Harry Potter] represents righteousness, nobility, love, so much beauty and a place of safety that people go to, and moral authority. If the ‘Harry Potter’ brand were to move something like fair trade, it would be making a statement that not only is the ‘Harry Potter’ brand a cut above the rest but that [other franchises] have to catch up to it.”

Jenkins, too, sees potential here beyond just this one campaign, identifying that HPA is “developing messaging tools that can be adapted to any number of causes, rather than identifying campaigns and then developing strategies for them” and suggesting that “‘In some ways, the flexibility of what the Harry Potter Alliance is doing is very useful…It can form new kinds of alliances, it can again evolve over time as the cultural references change’” (Ibid.). And in the broader scheme of things, “the cocoa campaign proves that the impact of Rowling’s novels isn’t limited to the pleasure it gives readers, or to a win in a single campaign for more ethical chocolate” (Ibid.).

Overall, we see a very interesting situation play out here where consumers have really taken control and, through their personal associations with the Harry Potter series, its values, and the role of chocolate in it, have fought back against unethical labor conditions. This is truly a fan-based internet movement, and can be seen as proof that online mobilizing really can have real-life effects. While the HPA was successful in getting Warner Brothers to make their chocolate products Fair Trade certified, however, we see that there are still problems with this “victory” – and moving forward, we certainly hope to see a push for more direct, regulated supply chains that truly do benefit the producers and others who historically have gotten the short end of the stick. And while “Not in Harry’s Name” has been a great movement in terms of bolstering people to care about these issues, we should turn to protesting unethical chocolate simply because it is unethical.

Works Cited

Bosmajian, Hamida. “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and other excremental visions.” The Lion and the Unicorn 9 (1985): 36-49. <http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/lion_and_the_unicorn/summary/v009/9.bosmajian.html>.

“Chocolate Frog – with Authentic Film Packaging.” Warner Bros Studio Tour London. Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Web. <http://shop.wbstudiotour.co.uk/product-categories/sweets/info/chocolate-frog-with-authentic-film-packaging/1236542.html>.

“Chocolate’s Child Slaves.” The CNN Freedom Project Ending ModernDay Slavery. Cable News Network. Web. <http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/category/chocolates-child-slaves/>.

Colbert, David. The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter: A Treasury of Myths, Legends, and Fascinating Facts. Wrightsville Beach, NC: Lumina, 2001.

Gibson, Carl. “How the IPhone Helps Perpetuate Modern-Day Slavery.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 11 Sept. 2014. Web. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carl-gibson/how-the-iphone_b_5800262.html>.

“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2/5) Movie CLIP – Dementor on the Train (2004) HD.” YouTube. 26 May 2011. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKhEFVAoScI&feature=youtu.be>.

“Harry Potter Chocolate Frog – 0.55 Oz.” Jelly Belly Candy Company. Web. <http://www.jellybelly.com/harry-potter-chocolate-frog-0-55-oz/p/96267>.

“Harry Potter Fans Win Against Child Slavery.” YouTube, 15 Jan. 2015. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7OT7MiwuN3I>.

“Honeydukes’ Chocolate Frogs.” Instructables.com. Web. <http://www.instructables.com/id/Honeydukes-Chocolate-Frogs/>.

“International Cocoa Initiative.” International Cocoa Initiative Foundation. Web. <http://www.cocoainitiative.org/en/>.

Jenkins, Henry. “”Cultural acupuncture”: Fan activism and the Harry Potter Alliance.” Transformative Works and Cultures 10 (2011). Web. <http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/305/259>.

Lockwood, Sarah. AAAS 119x Lecture 14: Exploiters or Exploited? Cocoa Production in West Africa. 23 Mar. 2015.

Martin, Carla. AAAS 119x Lecture 15: Modern day slavery. 25 Mar. 2015.

Martin, Carla. AAAS 119x Lecture 18: Alternative Trade and Virtuous Localization/Globalization. 6 Apr. 2015.

“Not In Harry’s Name.” YouTube, 29 Jan. 2012. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFNkz-EUDVI>.

“Not in Harry’s Name: A History.” The Harry Potter Alliance. Storify, Jan. 2015. Web. <https://storify.com/TheHPAlliance/nihn-a-history>.

O’Brien, Kara. “Organic versus Fair Trade.” The Harry Potter Alliance. 31 May 2011. Web. <http://thehpalliance.org/2011/05/organic-verses-fair-trade/>.

Rosenberg, Alyssa. “How ‘Harry Potter’ Fans Won a Four-year Fight against Child Slavery.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 13 Jan. 2015. Web. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/act-four/wp/2015/01/13/how-harry-potter-fans-won-a-four-year-fight-against-child-slavery/>.

Simeti, Angelia. “How Fair Trade Chocolate Can Help.” The Harry Potter Alliance. 10 May 2011. Web. <http://thehpalliance.org/2011/05/how-fair-trade-chocolate-can-help/>.

Slack, Andrew. “Accio Sunlight!” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 23 Jan. 2013. Web. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-slack/accio-sunlight_b_2507908.html>.

“The Harry Potter Alliance: What We Do.” The Harry Potter Alliance, 2014. Web. <http://thehpalliance.org/what-we-do/>.

“The Harry Potter Alliance Facebook Page.” Facebook. 13 Jan. 2015. Web. <https://www.facebook.com/thehpalliance/photos/pb.334095623110.-2207520000.1421867500./10152674801703111/?type=3&theater>.

“The Harry Potter Alliance Facebook Page.” Facebook. 24 Mar. 2013. Web. <https://www.facebook.com/thehpalliance/posts/127367674115877>.

“What’s the Difference Between Direct Trade and Fair Trade?.” TAZA Chocolate. Web. <http://www.tazachocolate.com/About/direct_trade_vs_fair_trade>.

Butt of the Joke or Belle of the Ball: Mature Women in Advertising

Since 2012, Snickers has waged their “You’re not you when you’re hungry” ad campaign. This campaign positions Snickers as a solution to hunger and it’s personality altering effects. In Snickers’ 2010 Super Bowl Ad, we see a group of 20-something men playing tackle football- with Betty White. After one man tackles her and she falls into the mud, they huddle and one man says, “Mike, you’re acting like Betty White.” One snickers bar later, and Betty White transforms into a young man. Another player then morphs into an elderly man.

Snickers Betty White Commercial- Mars- 2012

This ad uses age as it positions Snickers for a distinction purpose of consumption. As Emily Robertson describes in “Women, Chocolate and Empire,”  “Advertising has created- and enforced- particular uses and identities for each type of product: so, whilst a chocolate bar may be consumed as a source of concentrated energy… a box of chocolates may be bought as a gift” (19). Snickers depiction in this ad fits neatly into the first category. Mike eats the candy bar analagously to how he would eat a power bar. In turn, the chocolate offers the transformative effect as Mike goes from something you don’t want  to be: old, frail, unfit to a societal ideal: young, tough and fit.

While the trope of the weak elderly citizen often serves as the butt of jokes, we question if this is the only depiction of age that depicts Snickers as a satisfying, wholesome supplement to an active lifestyle. Drawing on alternative descriptions of the elderly as wise, capable and skilled, we constructed an ad where the grandmother figure excels due to her age, experience, and Snickers. Instead of the one-time effects of Snickers, our hero has relied on the candy for many years to develop her competitive position.

Original drawing- 2015
Original drawing- 2015

Although poking fun at the elderly seems like an attractive way to woo millenials, people of a certain age are increasingly being seen in the spotlight. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg of the supreme court has spawned a popular following as the “Notorious R.B.G”, a play on a popular rapper from the 1990’s. Meanwhile, high-fashion ad campaigns have embraced older popular figures: 80-year old author Joan Didion became the face of Céline, while Saint Laurent featured 71-year old singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell.

The increase in diversity and representation of the elderly largely owes to their increasing economic power as consumers. According to AdWeek, “the average wealth of households including people over the age of 50 is $765,000, baby boomers reign supreme, controlling more than 80 percent of all financial assets and accounting for 60 percent of consumer spending.” As any marginalized group gains power, the benefits of advertising to them grow and the costs of alienating them increase.

Joan Didion in an ad for Céline, a high-end fashion brand
Photo by Juergen Teller of Joan Didion in an ad for Céline, a high-end fashion brand

Even in light of the economic situation of baby boomers, the allure of these older women stems, in large part, from their accomplishments. In a departure from normal advertising, these women are not chosen for their youthful “fresh faces” (they are also likely not the most attractive older women out their). Instead, the history of their work creates their image. To those in the know, the face of Joni Mitchell cannot be removed from her music. Joan Didion’s Céline images play off the history of her memoirs in which style and life cannot be extricated.

Although Snickers Super Bowl ad makes a jab at Betty White due to her age, it also benefits from White’s considerable experience and personality. Were she a non-celebrity, the ad would not be funny, only cruel. Even as Snickers uses a familiar, derogatory trope it still relies on the considerable persona of its protagonist- a persona that only comes with age.

Works Cited

Bazilian, Emma. “Why Older Women Are the New It-Girls of Fashion.” AdWeek. N.p., 06 Apr. 2015. Web. 09 Apr. 2015.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. Print.

The “Sob” Story: Discovering the Truth about Chocolate Advertising

The advertising of chocolate has historically influenced the way in which chocolate was consumed as a part of everyday life. Advertising messages in this category of the food industry through mass media in newspapers, magazines, television advertisements, or even youtube videos, has the power to educate consumers about why their product has a competitive advantage. Although mass media can bring greater awareness about chocolate to all parts of the world, there is a danger in false advertising. The knowledge about where or how chocolate is produced is unknown to most consumers. Therefore, chocolate companies take advantage of this mysterious process by releasing ads that exaggerate claims relating to the sourcing or making of chocolate. Why does the chocolate industry feel the need to portray false narratives about the chocolate making process? Close analysis of two chocolate advertisements suggest that chocolate ads include false depictions about chocolate making not necessarily to hide the truth about their practices, but as a result of the pressure by consumers who idealize chocolate as a luxury.

Cadbury’s Bournville commercial is one example in which Cadbury falsely advertised the way in which cocoa beans are harvested in order to portray an ideal of authenticity.  The first scene in the Cadbury’s Bournville Chocolate establishes the setting of the narrative to be in rural Ghana, the second largest producer of cocoa globally. Viewers are transported to the land of Ghana where we see cocoa farmers busy working outside a small shack on dusty mud roads. On the right of the frame are cocoa farmers stuffing bags of cocoa, and there is a farmer on the left delivering a bag of cocoa into a small house. From the first couple of seconds of this video, viewers are introduced to an agricultural, less developed setting of what many perceive to be as Africa. Associating the setting as Ghana already establishes a comforting feeling that your piece of chocolate originated from cocoa beans in an organically grown area.

In the next scene, viewers enter the house and see a white, British man, in a nice, clean, gray suit on one side of the table. He is examining a single cocoa bean with a magnifying glass, characterizing the size, aroma, and thus qualifying the bean as the “perfect Ghana cocoa”. This is ironic because on the other side of the table are tired looking Ghanaian farmers, in dirty clothes, waiting on each inspection. He places a single cocoa bean on the table in a pile among eight other beans to the left. The next cocoa bean that he judges, he qualifies it as “nothing” or not good enough according to his standards. The ‘nothing’ bean then starts to cry, which is a humorous and fantasy element that instantly distracts viewers from the power relationship between the British man who is judging the work of the cocoa farmers. The man then is driven off from the village in a Range Rover as the commercial concludes with the saying, “Only the best cocoa from Ghana goes into making a Bournville.” There are many elements from this advertisement that are concerning but the main disappointing element is the false portrayal of how companies collect cocoa beans.


In order to combat this false portrayal, this following advertisement was created to criticize this exaggeration. The British man in the suit was the focus of this ad because of the contrast of this man in a clean expensive suit, even though his background reveals a cramped shack with worn down walls and dirty cabinets. “Made from the best cocoa inspected by one British dude in a suit” was written at the bottom to criticize this idea that a chocolate is of high quality because an executive has examined every single cocoa bean. No executive has the time to drive all the way to Ghana to inspect one cocoa bean at a time to ensure quality. Although cocoa is grown and harvested by Ghanian farmers, the cocoa is marketed to Western buyers by Ghana’s national cocoa marketing board. (http://www.hks.harvard.edu/fs/jfrankel/cocoa_in_ghana.pdf)

The situation in this entire commercial would never happen in real life, especially the idea of one cocoa bean crying. However, the focus of the commercial on this British man, in an expensive suit, with a bodyguard driving him in an escalade, elevates Cadbury’s chocolate to a luxury. Portraying the cocoa beans as hand selected by a chocolate specialist connotes this idea of rare uniqueness. Consumers are not necessarily concerned about Ghanaian farmers living on a low minimum wage who cannot afford a clean house, but demand authenticity and exclusivity in their chocolate, a demand that is fueling the chocolate industry.

This similar idea of exclusivity is also seen in the Divine Chocolate advertisements such as this one.


This ad represents images of Ghana’s agricultural economy. In the background is a cocoa drying table, mud buildings, dusty roads. This suggests an authentic feel about chocolate being locally grown. Then you see a young woman, crisp, clear and shiny, posing in a beautiful dress, which is an expression of her ‘global fashion savvy’. By connecting the background to this beautiful woman, you associate the authenticity of a Ghanian cocoa farm to the cosmopolitan look of this woman holding up the final product of chocolate. This chocolate represents the special food that was made from the fruit that they grew and harvested. Although it is false that women cocoa farmers look this clean and crisp all the time, the message of this ad is to associate Ghana as the source for developing the highest quality chocolate. This relationship was also seen in Cadbury’s ad by relating the high-powered, clean-suit wearing British man, to the high quality of chocolate in Ghana.

Although we have the power to criticize advertisements for not revealing the truthful picture about where or how chocolate is sourced, consumers should also be responsible for having an interest in learning about these practices. Instead of associating the ideals of chocolate as a luxury and thus buying chocolate sourced from Ghana because it is advertised as the best quality, consumers should take a step back to learn and challenge the conditions of quality in which one’s chocolate bar originated.


Leissle, Kristy. “Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 24.2 (2012): 121-139.

Frankel, Jeffrey. “Cocoa in Ghana: The Cocoa Farmers, the cocoa marketing board, and the elasticity of supply.” http://www.hks.harvard.edu/fs/jfrankel/cocoa_in_ghana.pdf

Make Chocolate Ads more Effective…and Less Offensive

The Market Domination of Big Chocolate

Growing up around advertisements, one rarely understands the true power of them until they are much older.  The themes in advertisements change with time, often mirroring and using the themes ubiquitous in society at that time.  Looking at advertisements now, specifically the ones created by the five “Big Chocolate” corporations depicted above, there is a sense that advertisements are becoming increasingly exploitative.  This exploitation has come in the form of targeted child ads before they reach an age where they are able to distinguish between an ad and a program.  These are problematic not only because they are indoctrinating indiscriminately, but because of the hypersexualized, masochistic, sexist, and at times even blatantly racist imagery that they validate.  Possibly the most frustrating aspect of this phenomenon is that it is avoidable and, from the perspective of the corporations, essentially unnecessary. .  In this post we have taken a problematic ad from our point of view and ameliorated some of these problematic implications without, I would argue, reducing the effectiveness of the ad. Overall, corporations are now often stuck in the paradigm of these ads when often these problematic themes depicted retract from their overall message and disillusion their audience.

Racist and Sexist Imagery in Current Chocolate Advertising
Original Fruit and Nut Ad

Pictured directly above is the original advertisement for Cadbury fruit and nut bar released in October 2003.  It depicts a young woman’s upper body with no clothes on, only using her arm to cover up her breast.  The ad then reads, “Good Things Shouldn’t Come in Pieces.”   The most powerful message that sticks out to the audience is most likely the woman depicted on the left.  This ad attempts to appeal to the male population by equating the “whole” nature of the bar’s fruit and nuts with the representation of a hypersexualized female.  From a female perspective, however, it is very problematic in the clear objectification of not just the female in general, but the female body.  It implies that the female body can be a “piece” or an object of desire to be bought rather than a living being.  It implies that men not only can buy these bars and the female body, but through language like “Shouldn’t,” it implies that they have a right to own these things.  Furthermore, if we examine the audience of these ads, it is most likely targeted at teens and young adults, but inevitably children are exposed to it as well.  Studies have shown that through these ads that objectify the female body, some children are indoctrinated with this perfect, often unattainable ideal of the perfect female body, leading to issues of body dysmorphic issues down the road.  For males growing up, this possibly creates a sort of superiority complex of being able to own women.   Is this really what we want children to be seeing? Feeling?  Believing?  As aforementioned, the frustration with these ads is that there really is no tangible upside to them.  Marketing is not a science and I would argue that a far less sexualized and objectifying version of this ad may actually be more effective as a marketing tool.

Below I have added the revised ad that my group came up with that we see as combating some of these problematic themes in the original ad.  The initial change that we made was to add clothing to the woman depicted on the left side of the ad.  This removes the objectification of the female and the female body, but still leaves something to be desired by the audience with the inclusion of red lips that still represent a more subtle sexuality.  The phrase is also changed to, “Good Things Come in Small Packages,” removing the wordplay that further works to objectify the female.  While some people may argue that this detracts from the effectiveness and allure of this ad, it actually widens the audience base that it appeals to.  In our society today, one defined by progressive feminist and humanitarian movements headed by educated people, by removing the objectification you also remove the main objection that any feminist or supporter of feminism would have with the advertising, making them more likely to purchase the product.  Additionally, there is no issue of child exploitation with ads targeted at young boys and girls in that the perpetuation of the female body that can be owned does not exist anymore.  This is also more effective in that the language more accurately describes the product itself.  There is some ambiguity in the original ad’s language that confuses the audience when it talks about the “pieces” that is now removed.  With some simple revisions in the ad, we remedied not only the problematic themes that are so prevalent in the chocolate, but also possibly made the ad in itself more effective.







Martin, Carla D. “Issues in Advertisements.” Chocolate Culture and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 1 Apr 2015. Class Lecture.

Robertson, Emma. “Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History”. New York: Manchester University Press, 2009. Print.

Betty White, football, and the potential for positive portrayals of the elderly in chocolate advertising

Advertisements reflect implicit, sometimes unrealized internal biases that we have inherited from society, and simultaneously reinforce that bias. Robertson writes that advertisements “position us in relation to that product as gendered, classed and raced beings” (19). Beyond racial and gender stereotypes, the ad I analyze in this blog post also utilizes problematic stereotypes about age to sell its product. The advertisement portrays an elderly subject in a way that ridicules, disempowers, and reinforces disrespectful stereotypes about the elderly as weak, and therefore undesirable. However, I will argue that advertising does not need to further entrench these harmful messages in order to sell their products; instead, advertisements can and should market their products while being a positive, active force in reshaping harmful societal stereotypes; in this case, by showcasing the elderly as strong, capable, and deserving of respect.

Problematic portrayals of marginalized populations in chocolate advertising are unfortunately commonplace. Racism is prevalent throughout chocolate advertising, such as in Rowntree’s Honeybunch, “a distinct racial caricature” with exaggerated features and stereotypical African-American vernacular (Robertson 41). Gender stereotypes are also prevalent: women are often fetishized as mothers, such as in the following advertisement, which appeals to a mother’s self-doubt and anxiety about making the right food choices for her family, by playing itself up as the choice of the savvy housewife and devoted mother. And when it comes to age in chocolate advertising, typically it is children, not the elderly, who are the targeted age demographic. Targeting children is a commonly exploited way of marketing these products; companies spend about $17 billion annually marketing to children (Martin, lecture slides), and psychosocial manipulation is often used, such as when “grocery stores place colorful boxes of sugary cereals on lower shelves where children can easily see and reach them” (Quelch). Thinking critically about chocolate advertisements can reveal our cultural blindspots to inequality and prejudice.

When the opposite end of the age spectrum is used in chocolate advertising, such as in this Snickers commercial, it is using to use age as a ridiculing punchline:

The underlying basis of this Snickers advertisement is that when the main character gets hungry, he turns into an Other, or in this case, Betty White. This Other personality is obnoxious, unwanted, and incompetent, and can only be dismissed (to the great relief of everyone) when the person eats a Snickers bar. There are many problems with the way Betty White, as an elderly woman, is portrayed and stereotyped in this commercial. She is shown struggling to keep up in a game of football with several young men. When they break for a huddle, the other men rail on her for playing poorly. She lashes back with attitude and provokes the beginnings of a fight. Ultimately, this commercial feeds into the perception of the elderly as weak, irritable, incompetent, and undesirable. She is weak in that she is physically frail and unable to play; she is irritable in that she lashes out when criticized (like the stereotype of the cantankerous old neighbor); she is incompetent in that she fails to hold up her role in the team and disappoints her teammates; and ultimately, she is undesirable, because the point of the commercial is that eating a Snickers gets rid of her.

Using an elderly woman as a marketing tool punchline for Snickers is ironic, as Robertson describes how many elderly women, such as in Bamikemo, are respected and powerful farmers and supervisors of cacao farms, “occupying positions of increased status within cocoa farming and the community as a whole” (105). The fact that these women, at the ages of 50, 60, or even 70 years of age are still spraying, harvesting, and managing these cocoa farms, while simultaneously continuing to engage in childcare and other domestic responsibilities, is remarkable. This makes Snickers’ ad particularly uncomfortable and disempowering, because they have taken a product that strong, capable, and admirable older women have had a hand in creating, and used ridiculing stereotypes of age and gender in order to market it.

Instead, we felt that Snickers could have created a commercial that admired and respected the elderly, while also selling its product:


This storyboard for a commercial sets up the scene in a similar way: the Betty White character is playing football with the young men, but this time, she is out-playing them, despite her age. The group then gets into a huddle, but instead of insulting her, they inquire admiringly about her impressive performance. In response, the elderly woman tells them she is so quick, fit, and strong because, in her words, “I’ve been eating Snickers all my life!” This simultaneously positively promotes the product (it is not only satisfying, it is fortifying as well) and portrays the elderly character as an aspirational figure and someone to be respected. Instead of the punchline, she is now the hero; instead of a nuisance to be dismissed, she is a real person whose performance makes her the star. Instead of perpetuating ideas of the elderly as weak, unwanted, and irritating, this new commercial actually actively works to change cultural perceptions and discourse about the elderly.

Advertisements reflect implicit biases we hold, whether about race, gender, or age. But advertisements are not strictly passive in reflecting our biases for us; they constructively shape our cultural understandings and social ideas. Therefore, advertisers like Snickers have a responsibility to catalyze positive change in how we think about marginalized populations in our society like the elderly, by portraying them as the nuanced, considered, strong and venerable figures they are.

Works Cited

Martin, Carla. “Lecture 17: Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements.” Lecture. April 1, 2015.

Quelch, John. All Business is Local: Why Place Matters More Than Ever in a Global, Virtual World. New York: Penguin, 2012.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, women and empire. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009.