Tag Archives: #thurs9

La Siembra: Sowing the Seeds of Change

The unethical nature of the cacao trade and its damaging consequences are well documented. In lecture this semester, we discussed several channels of response that could effectively confront these problems. This included governmental and/or international intervention, NGO responses, or even consumer campaigns and boycotts. However, it is my belief that corporate responsibility is the most effective form of protest. Ultimately, chocolate makers and manufacturers can exercise the most effective form of opposition to the current dynamic by adopting a clear stance on unfair cacao trading practices. Several companies have already undertaken this process. The La Siembra cooperative (which produces the Camino line of chocolate products) is committed to the improvement of the welfare of cacao workers as well as the environmental sustainability of cacao-producing regions through its involvement in initiatives that economically empower the communities of these workers, such as the Fairtrade and organic certifications.

The La Siembra Cooperative is an Ottawa, Canada based chocolate maker that exclusively produces Fairtrade and Organic certified chocolate products under the brand name Camino. The cooperative was founded in 1999 by 3 entrepreneurs who had previously worked overseas in the chocolate industry and witnessed questionable practices in the cacao trade. The founders adopted a worker cooperative business structure similar to the cooperatives that have been forming in the cacao-producing regions. Therefore, every worker owns a share of the company and can contribute to business decisions. The firm wanted to create chocolate products made from sourced cacao that had been purchased at a fair price, thus benefitting the cacao-producing workers. However, to this point, there were no established guidelines for buying cacao that was “fairly traded”. Undeterred, in 2002, La Siembra worked closely with Fairtrade Canada to create a certification system for Fairtrade cacao in the country. Through these efforts, La Siembra became the first importer of Fairtrade certified cacao in North America. 13 years later, their line of Camino chocolate includes products such as chocolate bars, baked goods, and drinking chocolate. The company’s products are competitively priced with an average 3.5-ounce bar costing roughly $4-5. Camino chocolate has been highly successful, generating upwards of $6 million in annual sales. (La Siembra website) Despite its commercial success, La Siembra remains committed in their vision of fostering an equitable cacao trade as well as participating in environmental sustainability. The company sources its cacao from 18 producer cooperatives in 9 different countries. All told, La Siembra supports over 35,000 workers in the cacao and sugar producing industries. In the spirit of full transparency and consumer awareness, the company lists and describes all the producer cooperatives it partners with on its website. This allows customers to understand where their chocolate is grown and reassures them that they are contributing to an equitable cacao trade.

La Siembra demonstrates its promise to improve the well being of cacao workers through its involvement in the Fairtrade movement. Historically, large chocolate manufacturers have controlled the price of cacao in order to create high profit margins. This has caused cacao producers to resort to exploitative labor practices, such as child labor. (Orla 44)

Chart that shows the breakdown of farmers’ share in the retail price of a chocolate bar (Oxfam)

According to a recent Oxfam study, cacao farmers only see 3% of the retail price of a chocolate bar. (Oxfam) The Fairtrade movement pays cacao farmers a premium for their product in exchange for adhering to specific production conditions. According to Fairtrade Canada, the motivations of the Fairtrade movement are to “provide fair compensation to workers for their products and labor, to encourage sustainable environmental practices, to improve social services, and to increase investment in local economic infrastructure.” As previously mentioned, La Siembra was the first importer of Fairtrade certified cacao and continues to adhere to this strict standard. The company sources its entire cacao from family farmers that are members of producer cooperatives. La Siembra visits its trading partners to learn more about their successes and challenges and also encourages them to observe the markets where their products are sold. This creates a spirit of transparency and cooperation between the chocolate maker and its partner cooperatives.

This promotional video highlights the firm’s belief that consumers can become involved in the cacao trade by choosing to buy chocolate that pays an “honest” price to the producer. It also features an interview from the director of CEPICAFE, a cacao, coffee, and sugar cooperative in Peru. He stresses that their inclusion in Fairtrade and partnership with La Siembra has resulted in a positive impact on the entire community. Since partnering with La Siembra in 2009, the cooperative has grown to 6,600 family farmers and has used its excess profits (from the Fairtrade premiums) on several community projects. CEPICAFE (now called Norandino) has made technical agronomy assistance available to all family farmers part of the cooperative. This helps increase output and quality of product for the farmers while also utilizing more environmentally friendly farming techniques. To become more appealing to buyers, the Peruvian cooperative has invested in several production and processing facilities.

norandino plant
Norandino coffee processing facility (Norandino website)

This particular coffee facility can process up to 5 tons of coffee beans per hour. Such technological advances help improve the quality of product that the cooperative sells, which further increases their sales. (Norandino website) The cooperative’s recent success has resulted in construction plans for new cacao and sugar facilities to be opened by 2015, such as the one pictured below.

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 8.46.00 PM
New completed cacao facility (Norandino website)

The cooperative also offers credit to members so that they can manage their finances without having to wait for post-harvest sales. CEPICAFE has even established a funeral fund for its members and their families. These projects have a lasting impact on the community and are only made possible through the purchases made by importers such as La Siembra. More importantly, the purchase of cacao and other produce through the Fairtrade model has important consequences that are not directly reflected in the farmer cooperatives’ profits. By adhering only to Fairtrade agreements, La Siembra is empowering these local farmer communities. Their excess profits are a result of normalized business dealings, and not that of humanitarian aid or other “handouts”. This distinction is important because it creates a belief within these communities that they can be successful of their own accord. (Adams et al. 259) Additionally, the farmer cooperatives that La Siembra trades with apply a significant portion of their sales to community projects. This improves the quality of life in these communities and makes it more likely that they can break out of the poverty cycle.

La Siembra is also invested in the environmental sustainability of the cacao-producing communities through its purchase of organic certified ingredients. Historically, the growing of cacao has been involved the heavy use of pesticides. La Siembra’s website highlights Lindane, the main pesticide used in non-organic cacao production, as highly detrimental to wildlife. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN, most people carry pesticide residues in their bodies as a result of eating produce grown in this matter. (Organic Agriculture) Therefore, using chemical additives in cacao production affects not only the biodiversity of the growing region, but the consumer population as well. Organic certified produce is grown without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides. The company believes that organic certified products are healthier for the producer and consumer alike. La Siembra is a strong proponent of cooperatives that utilizes shade grown agricultural techniques. This involves planting shade-giving trees alongside cacao trees. This approach provides alternatives to fertilizers and pesticides. Decomposing shade-giving trees are a natural source of fertilizer for cacao production. The shade canopy provides a habitat for different species that live near cacao trees. Certain birds are more likely to nest in shaded habitats. This creates a natural form of pest protection. A concrete example of La Siembra’s dedication to environmental conservation is their partnership with APPTA, a Costa Rican cacao cooperative. Located in southeastern Costa Rica, APPTA is composed of 1,000 cacao farmers. The farming cooperative specifically employs shade grown agricultural techniques.

Canopy shade technique adopted by APPTA cooperative
Canopy shade technique adopted by APPTA cooperative (APPTA website)

They plant shade-giving trees (roughly 120 feet tall) next to their cacao trees (only 15 feet tall), creating the shade canopy environment. In an effort to reduce carbon emissions, APPTA farmers utilize an industrial wood furnace during the drying and roasting phases of cacao production. (APPTA website) These initiatives by producer cooperatives are instrumental in preserving biodiversity in cacao producing regions. La Siembra takes a strong position on environmental sustainability by only purchasing organic certified cacao. This stance is another example of their efforts to improve the quality of life in cacao farming communities. Pesticides and fertilizers affect soil quality and can significantly damage the land they grow their crops. This can negatively affect crop yields and further financially burden these farming communities. By growing produce organically, the cooperatives are able to see the positive economic benefits of growing crops in this manner. La Siembra’s purchase of only organic certified cacao demonstrates their support for not only environmental conservation of the cacao growing regions, but also the financial situation of the farming communities.

In Spanish, La Siembra means “planting time.” This name was chosen by the founders of the cooperative to signify the leading position the chocolate maker was taking in the Fairtrade business model. La Siembra hopes that other chocolate makers see the firm’s initiatives as well as their commercial success and decide to emulate these trading practices. La Siembra’s impact in the cacao growing regions extends beyond the additional profits that its trading partners receive through the Fairtrade agreements. These normalized business dealings give the communities a sense of self-sufficiency. The farming regions are empowered financially and undertake social projects that benefit the entire community. Likewise, La Siembra’s purchase of organic certified products demonstrates their commitment to environmental sustainability as well as the long-term economic stability of the production regions. As La Siembra continues to grow as a company, the hope is that other chocolate makers see corporate responsibility as part of the path to financial success.

Works Cited

About Us. Norandino, n.d. Web. 6 May 2015.

Adams, Matthew, and Jayne Raisborough. “Making a Difference: Ethical Consumption and the Everyday.” The British Journal of Sociology 61.2 (2010): 256-74. JSTOR [JSTOR]. Web. 6 May 2015.

Camino. La Siembra, n.d. Web. 06 May 2015.

“Cocoa Fact Sheet.” Oxfam, n.d. Web. 06 May 2015.

Organic Agriculture. United States Department of Agriculture, n.d. Web. 06 May 2015.

“Organic Agriculture: What Are the Environmental Benefits of Organic Agriculture?” Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, n.d. Web. 06 May 2015.

Ryan, Orla. Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. London: Zed, 2011. 43-62. Print.

“Sustainability.” APPTA Costa Rica. N.p., 06 Jan. 2015. Web. 06 May 2015.

What Is Fair Trade? Fairtrade Canada, n.d. Web. 06 May 2015.

Theo Chocolate

     Unjust and exploitative labor practices characterize much of the cocoa-growing world, perpetuating not only poverty and inequality but also the legacies of misrepresentation that allow major chocolate companies to keep their prices low while turning a blind eye to the ethics of their products. Small, craft chocolate makers have increasingly stood up to this unfortunate history, pledging to root out exploitative labor in their supply chains while paying a living wage to farmers in the developing world. Theo Chocolate exemplifies this trend, not only by obtaining Fair-Trade certification, but also by providing truthful information about each step in their supply chain. The commitment of Theo Chocolate to pay above market prices to farmers and their transparency in regards to pricing data and sourcing help to fight against unjust labor practices in their own supply chain while also raising awareness about these issues in Western consumers.

Theo Chocolate goes beyond the minimum requirements necessary to obtain Fair-Trade certification, demonstrating an awareness for the fact that Western Chocolate companies have a history of concealing injustice in their supply chain. On their website, they write the following – “Paying premium prices for high quality cocoa beans requires full transparency in our entire supply chain, in order to ensure that farmers are benefitting from these premiums and able to invest in their families and communities.” And while many companies make vague claims about transparency, Theo actually backs up their claims with information about where they buy their beans, and at what prices.

Theo 2014 Pricing Matrix
This page links to an easy-to-find table on Theo Chocolate’s website; a number of factors are listed, including mold, fermentation quality, and coloring, with corresponding prices paid to farmers depending on the measured quality of the beans they produce. With publicly accessible information like this, Theo addresses the issue of lack of transparency that has plagued the chocolate industry for over a century, while also providing incentives to farmers to produce the highest quality cacao.

In addition to their pricing data, Theo Chocolate also provides data about where their beans come from, including the companies they buy from and the locations of their farms. Interestingly, Theo get their beans from three places: Panama, Peru, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The detailed information they provide about the cacao collectives that operate in each of these countries gives Theo a high degree of traceability.

CongoImage 1: A cacao farmer in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The man in the picture above is a farmer on one of the farms in the Eastern DRC from which Theo buys their cacao, and is displayed on the company’s website. The fact that Theo incorporates African beans into what is a relatively high-end chocolate (though not the highest) shows a willingness to fight back against the stereotype of African cacao as conflict-ridden and of a lower quality. Theo Chocolate’s commitment to transparency sets a standard in the chocolate industry and their success will likely encourage others to pursue fair labor practices and look beyond just South American cacao.

The impact of Fair Trade exceeds just the monetary gains made by farmers in developing countries. In addition to these tangible benefits are rewards that are less easily quantifiable but just as important. Neusa Hidalgo-Monroy Wohlgemuth of the University of Toledo carried out a case study on Fair-Trade coffee growing in the state of Chiapas, Mexico, and concluded that the financial gains were only one part of the benefits that farmers received for working with Fair-Trade buyers. “Fair Trade has created democratic producer organizations that are able to benefit from the higher returns and more stable prices. However, non-income impacts are at least as important and with more lasting effects. The social empowerment generated and connections to the alternative markets have brought fundamental changes to the traditional social hierarchies” (67). Wohlgemuth notes that Fair-Trade has encouraged the organization of small farms and NGO’s and has strengthened civil society in Chiapas. While this study centered on organic coffee-growing rather than on cacao, it still serves to demonstrate the positive effect of Fair-Trade on producers, both for its financial and social benefits.

And while benefits for farmers are the most valuable advantage derived from buying Fair-Trade ingredients, there is also the somewhat less obvious advantage of informing consumers in the developed world that issues of labor justice are worth fighting for. Because Fair-Trade requires that companies pay farmers a reasonable wage, the price of a bar of Theo Chocolate or a bar of Green & Black’s chocolate far exceeds the price of a Hershey’s or Cadbury’s bar. However, this price jump for the predominantly Western consumer is not all downside. When a Western consumer sees that a chocolate is priced highly, she will often assume that this is due to the fact that something of value has been added. This could be due to the use of a higher quality bean, or the fact that the chocolate has been hand-crafted, or that farmers have been justly compensated for their work. As Priyanka Parvathi Hermann Waibel explain, chocolate companies like Theo rely on consumers to place value on the ethics of their chocolate. “Under fair trade arrangements, a price premium is paid by the consumers of industrialized countries with a guarantee that this would benefit the poor in developing countries” (311). This whole system creates a positive feedback loop; for Fair-Trade chocolate to exist, there must be demand for ethically sourced chocolate, and the presence of ethically sourced chocolate creates awareness that fair labor practices are an important issue to consider when buying chocolate.

In their book “A True History of Chocolate,” Sophie and Michael Coe explain the importance of chocolate companies taking a leap of faith and moving to Fair-Trade cacao (263). Referring to Green & Black’s decision to pursue Fair-Trade cacao, they write: “Green & Black’s gambled that an increasingly aware chocolate-loving public would be willing to pay extra for a more “ethically correct” product” (Coe and Coe, 263).

Green and Black's

Image 2: Green and Black’s Dark Chocolate Bar

Because of the added costs associated with the Fair-Trade certification, companies take a risk (in the form of higher prices for their products) when they decide to pay their farmers higher-than-market wages. Additionally, many Fair-Trade buyers, including both Green & Black’s and Theo Chocolate, pride themselves not only on their Fair-Trade practices, but also on the fact that all of their cacao is grown organically. Green and Black’s label prominently features the fact that the company produces both Organic and Fair-Trade chocolate. Interestingly, as observed by Rie Makita, organic certification encourages biodiversity by only evaluating the means of production on a farm, while Fair-Trade identifies crops individually as falling under the Fair Trade certification (207). The result is that it can be difficult for farmers to meet both criteria, as farmers are often incentivized to grow a number of different crops when pursuing an organic certification but only one when pursuing a Fair-Trade certification. After all of these factors are considered, it should come as no surprise that the majority of the world’s chocolate is produced without these considerations in mind. When companies like Green & Black’s or Theo Chocolate stand up for organic production and Fair-Trade despite the economic obstacles associated with these practices, they promote a standard of fairness and justice in the food industry.

Theo Chocolate’s commitment to Fair-Trade and their transparency in disclosing information about their supply chain sets a precedent for other chocolate companies to follow. As the Fair-Trade movement gains steam, more and more consumers will realize the value of the ethically-produced food products, and as a result, more and more companies will begin producing their products with the ethics of production in mind. It is this positive feedback that underlies the reason why companies like Theo are so important; as companies like Theo decide that the financial risk of Fair-Trade is worth taking, it will become more alluring for other companies to do the same.

Ben and Jerry's

Image 3: Ben & Jerry’s Fair-Trade Cocoa Advertisement

While this image from Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream is somewhat fantastical and idealized, I have included it to show that even large and prosperous companies like Ben & Jerry’s are realizing that turning to Fair Trade may not only increase the ethics of their business, but also their profits. Hopefully the momentum generated from companies like Theo will not only encourage companies like Ben & Jerry’s to purse Fair-Trade certifications, but also, like Theo, to present information about their suppliers in a transparent and easy-to-access manner.

List of Works Cited

Coe, Sophie D. (Sophie Dobzhansky). The true history of chocolate. 280 p., [8] p. of plates (2013).

Makita, Rie. “A confluence of Fair Trade and organic agriculture in southern India” Published online: 20 Apr 2011. http://ejournals.ebsco.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu  /Direct.asp?AccessToken=7DID9TIB3DOMX5XLVDIO5TOXX0MMB9I9IN&Show=Object

Parvathi, Priyanka, and Waibel, Hermann. “Fair Trade and Organic Agriculture in Developing Countries: A Review.” Leibniz University of Hannover, Hannover, Germany Published online: 01 Aug 2013. http://www.ypard.net/sites/ypard.net/files/paper%201%20%20Fair%20Trade%20and%20Organic%20Agriculture%20in%20Developing%20Countries%20-%20A%20Review.pdf

Theo Chocolate. https://www.theochocolate.com/

Wohlgemuth, Neusa Hidalgo-Monroy. “Alternatives to Rural Development: Organic Agriculture
and Indigenous Communities in Chiapas, Mexico.” Department of Geography and Planning, University of Toledo. http://web.b.ebscohost.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=51c757c0-f06f-4877-9b69-4cb45baee475%40sessionmgr113&vid=3&hid=125


Image 1: https://www.theochocolate.com/our-product-info/our-cocoa-beans
Image 2: http://images.iherb.com/l/GAB-10041-0.jpg
Image 3 : http://files.coloribus.com/files/adsarchive/part_1661/16612555/file/ice-cream-fair-trade-cocoa-600-93572.jpg

Theo Pricing Matrix: https://www.theochocolate.com/sites/default/files/images/Theo%202014%20Pricing%20Matrix.pdf

The Rising Popularity of the Craft Chocolate Movement: A Demand for Change

Craft chocolate makers pride themselves on the fact that they develop their product all the way from the cacao bean to the chocolate bar. Often using old-fashioned techniques, these bean-to-bar companies use a very small selection of ingredients when producing their chocolate, keeping it as pure and authentic as possible. The number of craft chocolate companies is constantly on the rise in both the US and Europe, resulting in the formation of organisations such as the ‘Craft Chocolate Association of America’ and also improving the level of direct trade in the cacao industry. I believe that, by looking closely at the methods and philosophies of a specific bean-to-bar chocolate company, many of the current problems surrounding the cacao industry are brought to attention. Furthermore, I feel that the increased popularity of these small companies represents a growing concern regarding the poor treatment of cacao farmers, for which large multinational chocolate companies are deemed responsible.

Parliament Chocolate, a small craft chocolate company located in Redlands, California, consists of a small team looking to bring something ‘new and exciting to the chocolate world’ (Parliament Website). The workers at the firm believe chocolate making is a truly artisanal process and use only two ingredients, which are high quality cacao and organic cane sugar. Through this simplistic approach the company believes they allow the true profiles of the cacao bean to come through in their chocolate. As with any small bean-to-bar chocolate company, Parliament Chocolate manages the entire production process straight from the cocoa bean. This process is summarised in the short video below demonstrating the various stages of production that take place at Parliament chocolate, including the sorting, roasting and winnowing of the beans as well as the final preparation of the chocolate bars.

In terms of production, it is clear that Parliament Chocolate follows the general methods used by craft bar-to-bar companies. However, Parliament chocolate separates itself from many other companies like itself by the way in which it selects and manages the cacao farms from which the beans used in its chocolate production are grown. The owner of the company, Ryan Berk, travels to Central America an average of four times a year in order to meet face to face with the farmers who supply Parliament Chocolate’s cocoa beans. He does this in part because he believes the cacao farmers are an integral part of chocolate production, and that they deserve the company’s upmost respect and gratitude. He also believes that the use of good environmental practices throughout the entire farming process is of huge importance, and by visiting the farms in person he can make sure these standards are being maintained. When at the farms, Berk rewards the farmers for maintaining these high standards by paying them and their families a salary significantly above the going market value. Furthermore, by maintaining this direct relationship with the farmers, Parliament Chocolate feels it can be sure that the farmers they are using are striving to utilise the most up to date methods for the processes that they perform, which include the growing, fermentation and drying of the beans, leading to a better quality of chocolate at the end of the entire process (Parliament website).

Ryan Berk with cocoa beans that he directly selected and paid for
Ryan Berk with cocoa beans that he directly selected and paid for

Thus, it can be said that Parliament Chocolate, whilst labelled a bean-to-bar chocolate company, is essentially a cacao farm-to-bar company, as it not only produces all of its own chocolate from scratch, but also plays an important role in the growth and harvesting of the cacao beans it uses by directly choosing and compensating the farmers who grow it. This direct relationship that Parliament Chocolate forms with its farmers is a far cry from the methods enforced by large chocolate manufactures such as Mars and Hershey. Bean-to-bar companies like Parliament Chocolate make up a fraction of the $17.7 billion a year industry dominated by the corporate sector a small selection of huge multinational chocolate manufactures, and they believe that the current actions taken by these large corporations are both unethical and leading to a possible shortage of cocoa beans in the future (Pierson).

Whilst the low quality chocolate produced by the large confectionary manufactures does not sit well with the far smaller bean-to-bar companies, it is the way in which they source their cocoa that really troubles the artisanal chocolate industry. Roughly two thirds of the world’s chocolate comes from western African countries, most commonly Ghana and the Ivory Coast. The extremely low earnings of the cacao farmers in these countries have lead to very poor working conditions, including the use of both child and slave labour. According to the International Labour Rights Forum, it is possible that more than 1 million children are currently working on African cacao farms (Pierson). These unacceptable conditions are what lead companies like Parliament Chocolate to have a direct relationship with their farmers, as by directly observing the farmers at work, the companies can be sure that low or unpaid labour is not occurring at their source of cacao. Furthermore, the direct relationship results in the farmers being far better compensated than they would be if producing cacao for a large multinational company. This is because, when not directly paid, much of the pay provided to cacao farmers does not reach them due, most commonly, to corrupt governments and landowners.

Parliament Chocolate Owner Ryan Berk with Cacao Farmers
Parliament Chocolate Owner Ryan Berk with Cacao Farmers

The low pay that a vast majority of cacao farmers receive due to the lack of care large chocolate manufacturers demonstrate not only leads to unacceptable working conditions on the farms, but also an increase in the number of farmers changing to other crops. In Africa, it is becoming a growing problem for the cacao industry that farmers are transitioning to to more profitable crops like palm and rubber. This decrease in the number of cacao farmers, coupled with issues surrounding drought and plant disease, has severely affected the international supply of cacao from African countries. With the demand for chocolate ever increasing around the world, especially in emerging markets such as China and India, this potential lack of cocoa supply has led to forecasts that there will be a shortage of approximately 1 million tons come the year 2020 (Pierson).

It is clear that the actions of the small bean-to-bar companies when dealing directly with cacao farmers are largely an attempt to prevent the poor working conditions seen on a vast amount of cacao farms and also reduce the financial need by cacao farmers to switch to other crops. The huge increase in the popularity and number of bean-to-bar chocolate companies, such as Parliament Chocolate, can be attributed to a growing concern amongst chocolate connoisseurs and the general public regarding these ethical issues surrounding cacao farming. This increased concern may be a result of the relatively recent criticisms that large chocolate companies have faced regarding their lack of action concerning the possibility of slavery, as well as the ‘general desire to know where your food comes from and a reaction against mass-produced food in general’ (Pierson). In his article named ‘Is There Slavery in Your Chocolate’, John Robbins discusses how it wasn’t until the early 2000’s that slavery and child labour on cacao farms was a possibility known to the public, after the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) and others published investigative reports on the problem. The Cacao farms in the Ivory Coast were particularly targeted, resulting in a lot of pressure on the biggest companies in the industry, Hershey and Mars, to take action, as they both use large amounts of Ivory Coast cacao. However, these and other big chocolate producers denied their responsibility, claiming they do not own the farms, and even collectively lobbied against efforts to have a ‘slave free’ label put on chocolate bars known not to involve slave labour (Robbins).

Despite the denial of large corporations, efforts against the problem of slavery and child labour in cacao farms were nevertheless taken in response to the increased awareness of its goings on. The Harkin-Engel protocol, presented in 2001 with the intention of eradicating slave labour from western cacao products in 4 years, was one of the biggest, albeit optimistic, efforts. Certification such as fair trade and direct trade also arose in response to fears of slavery in the industry, and continue to gain popularity, partly due to the large increase in craft chocolate companies like Parliament Chocolate. In her book ‘Cocoa and Chaos in Ghana’, Gwendolyn Mikell argues that, in Ghana at least, the solution to poverty on cacao farms lies in policies that recognize that rural vibrancy contributes to national stability, such as allowing local agricultural organizations to address local socio-economic needs (Mikell). This stems from the idea she presents that a lot of the issues surrounding cacao farming in Africa and particularity Ghana arise through conflict between capitalist peasants and a national government that sought control over cacao resources (Mikell).

Child and slave labour is currently a huge issue in chocolate
Child and slave labour is currently a huge issue in chocolate

The idea of capitalist-orientated peasants (farm labourers) being part of the problem can be associated with the actions of Parliament Chocolate and also to the ideas of Robert Albritton. As mentioned earlier, one of the goals of having direct relationships with the cacao farmers, like Parliament Chocolate does, is to prevent the farmer from transitioning to other crops in order to receive more money and possibly avoid high government intervention. Being capitalist in nature, farmers are incentivised to make as much money as possible, which may often lead to less cacao famers as it simply is not as financially rewarding as other, often non-food, products, due to low the low pay for which large western confectionary companies are largely responsible. In his article ‘Between Obesity and Hunger: The Capitalist Food Industry’, Albritton argues that capitalism is largely to blame for both the poor quality and lack of food in the US, stating farmers transitioning from food crops to other more prosperous materials as one of the main reasons for the latter. He states how ‘fertile land that could grow food crops is being utilized for non-food crops, including trees for pulp and paper’ (Albritton). Whilst Albritton is focusing more on the problems in the western world, it is clear that his argument can be applied to the problems in cacao farms in Africa and elsewhere. However, whilst he would potentially blame capitalism for the potential shortage of chocolate in the future, it seems inconceivable to blame the attitudes of the farmers for the problem, as they and their families can struggle to survive on the low pay provided to them for producing cacao beans.

Thus it is clear that the actions of craft bean-to-bar chocolate companies like Parliament Chocolate can be associated with some of the primary problems with the chocolate industry today, namely the use of slavery and child labour on the cacao farms and the potential shortage of cocoa bean supply in the future. The recent ‘exponential rise’ (Pierson) in these small firms strongly suggests there is a belief amongst many that things need to change in the chocolate industry in order for it to become an ethical industry and keep up with the ever rising demand. Whilst reluctant to act at first, it appears that the multinational confectionary companies are begging to take responsibility for these problems in the chocolate industry. Mars, for example, is combining science and increased farmer outreach in an attempt to achieve its goal of only using sustainably used cocoa in its products by the year 2020 (NCA). With other companies such as Hershey and Nestle announcing similar initiatives, it is clear that the increase in bean-to-bar companies, coupled with various others pleads for reform, are being taken into account by the large chocolate manufacturers and causing acting to be taken.

Ultimately, from investigating the methods they use in the production of their chocolate, it is evident that craft chocolate companies not only have a passion for making high quality, traditional chocolate, but also much concern for the cacao industry regarding the problems that it currently faces. The massive increase in these companies is a sign that more and more people are realising the current path of the industry is not acceptable, as it encourages the use of slave and child labour and a potential shortage of chocolate in the near future. Large chocolate companies are beginning to take action however, and whilst it seems there will still be problems for many years to come, there is hope of the chocolate industry one day becoming an ethically sound and sustainable business.

Works Cited

  • Mikell, G. ‘Cocoa and Chaos in Ghana’. (1991)
  • Albritton, R. ‘Between Obesity and Hunger: The Capitalist Food Industry’. Food and Culture (3rd Edition) (2013)
  • Robbins, J. ‘Is There Slavery in Your Chocolate?’. (2010)
  • National Confectioners Association. ‘ Mars Invested in Cocoa’s Future’. NCA Journal Vol 2 (2012)
  • Pierson, D. “Artisanal, Hand Crafted Chocolate Is a Growing Niche.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 28 Feb. 2015. Web. 06 May 2015.
  • “Parliament Chocolate.” Parliament Chocolate. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 May 2015. http://www.parliamentchocolate.com/


Choosing an Ethically Sourced Chocolate: How Hard Can It Be?

In today’s world, we as consumers are faced with seemingly unlimited choices when it comes to different products.  Each product claims to be better than the next, making comparison between them extremely difficult.  This trend continues into the world of fine, crafted cocoa.  Each chocolate company profiles particular aspects of their bar, be it organic certifications, ethically sourced ingredients, different flavor profiles, or species of bean.  Combine this with the “personality” that the companies try to present and you end up with one confusing choice for consumers.  If a customer wants to make an informed decision to only buy chocolate with a strong, transparent, and ethical background, how can they get this information to guide their choice?  In order to make the most ethical product decision, product and certification labels alone simply do not provide enough information to the consumer about how fairly or directly ingredients are sourced.  For that, more in-depth research about each company is required.

In order to arrive at this conclusion I first took a trip to my local Stop and Shop, a large grocery store retailer present in much of the Northeast.  I headed to the natural/organic section of the store and looked for their chocolates.  There were only about 7-8 different brands on the shelf, each with at least two different flavors of chocolate bar.  Based mostly on what looked appealing to me, I chose chocolate bars from five different companies: Equal Exchange Chocolates, Green & Black’s, Endangered Species Chocolate, Pascha, and Theo.  As a point of comparison I also went to the regular candy aisle in the supermarket and picked up the store brand of chocolate branded under the label Simply Enjoy.  Together with Taza, I wanted to see what certification labels each company uses, what kind of story they try to tell with their packaging, and whether the information they provide about their sourcing practices matches the persona that they are trying to present.  At the end, I wanted to see if the product labels alone gave enough information about the company for consumers to make an informed, ethical decision.

As sort of a “control” case, I began to research Taza and its practices.  This company was touted in class as a leader in the ethical sourcing and production of craft chocolate here in the United States. According to their website, Taza “is a pioneer in ethical cacao sourcing. [They] were the first U.S. chocolate maker to establish a third-party certified Direct Trade Cacao Certification program.”[i]

Taza has a set of Five Direct Trade Principles:

“1: Work exclusively with USDA Certified Organic cacao farms that practice sustainable agriculture.

  1. Pay a premium of at least 500 US dollars per metric ton above the New York International Commodities Exchange (NY ICE) price on the date of invoice directly to cacao farmers
  2. Physically visit each cacao farmer or cacao farmer cooperative at least once a year to build long-term, sustainable relationships.
  3. Only buy cacao from farmers and farmer cooperatives that ensure fair and humane work practices.
  4. Never purchase cacao from farmers of farmer cooperatives that engage in child or slave labor.”[ii]

Additionally, they have a third-party company certify that they visit their cacao producers once a year, that they pay a price premium of at least 500 US dollars above commodity price, and that they purchase high-quality beans that meet a certain standard.[iii]  By themselves, these direct trade principles and certifications would signal that Taza is an ethical company.  However the information that Taza provides does not stop there.  Every year the company publishes a Transparency Report, detailing which farms cacao was sourced from, the price paid per ton, when the most recent visit was, the amount purchased in the last 12 months, and how much each producer contributed to Taza’s total purchases in the last 12 months.[iv]  In the video below, Taza Co-Founder discusses how the Fair-Trade model didn’t work for his company and why they opted for a Direct Trade model instead.

All of this information signaling Taza’s ethical practices is clearly displayed in an easy-to-find way on Taza’s website.  While I did not have any of their chocolate on hand to see how they present this information on the actual product, they set the bar for actual practices in the chocolate industry and serve as the comparison for the chocolate bars that I bought at the grocery store.

The first bar that I picked up for examination was Green and Black’s Organic 70% Dark Chocolate. The label features a Fair Trade and USDA Organic certification on the front.  The back of the label primarily discussed the flavor profile of the chocolate.  It was only underneath the ingredients list that any mention of Fair Trade or ethically sourced ingredients was mentioned, and it was done in a way that promoted the Fair Trade name instead of the actual producers of the cacao beans.  When visiting their website, I was greeted with pictures of farmers holding cacao pods. The “About Us” page said that ingredients were sourced with care, and that the company is “committed to applying Ethical Sourcing Standards in [their] own workplace, and [they] expect [their] suppliers, co-manufacturers, and business partners to follow suit.”[v]  While on the surface this seems admirable, their good intent falls flat.  Nowhere on the website was there a mention of what the Ethical Sourcing Standards are or how they are applied.  Furthermore, applying the standards within your own workplace doesn’t necessarily mean that you promote the same principles with the farmers or co-ops that you work with.  The whole website seemed like a façade of good intent to cover up the fact that Green and Black’s is owned by the food giant Mondelez Global.  Even though the chocolate bar was Fair Trade Certified, it’s not the most ethical choice that I picked up from the store.

The second bar that I bought was the Endangered Species Chocolate. The front label had a Rainforest Alliance certification, it was verified by the Non GMO Project, and was certified as Gluten Free.  On the back of the bar, the text at the top mentions ethical trade and how the company buys its cocoa from “small family-owned properties, helping sustain the habitats and communities in which they exist.”[vi]  Right from the start, this company is already more open about where it sources its ingredients from.  When visiting the website, this claim is repeated but not expanded on.  The consumer is not told which farms or even continents the beans come from.  They mention that they visit the farmers but not how often or when they last visited.[vii]  The fact that this chocolate bar is not Fair Trade Certified is addressed in the FAQ’s where the company states that philosophically Fair Trade and Ethically Traded are the same thing, each giving the farmers fair pay for their product.[viii]  Overall this company has made some solid efforts to become transparent in its ethics, but the evidence backing up their claims is just not presented for the public to see.

The third company that I bought a chocolate bar from was Pascha.  On the front label were USDA Organic, Fair Trade, and Non GMO certifications.  The back of the bar claimed “bean to bar near the source” and “full ingredient traceability.”[ix]  Upon visiting the website to learn more about this process, I was left slightly disappointed.  There was very little information about anything, set aside for a company origin story and 5 Principles that the company was guided by.  While two of the principles concerned themselves with the “bean to bar” process, there was no information given as to how this is achieved or what steps still need to be taken in the future.[x]  While the label on this bar looked promising, the website left for very little follow-up on the actual practices of the company and didn’t provide any supporting evidence of ethical practices.

The fourth bar I bought was from Theo Chocolate, and it was a 70% Sea Salt Dark Chocolate.  This bar had Non GMO, USDA Organic, and Fair for Life certifications on the front.  The back of the bar used half of the available space to talk about the bean to bar process that they use.  The text stated how the company shares its sourcing practices with the public and invited the consumer to use their website to learn more about the whole process.  This bar was the first product that I came across in this little test to openly invite customers to inspect their ethical claims.  Upon visiting their website, I learned that their beans primarily come from Democratic Republic of Congo, Peru, and Panama and was shown the exact farms that the beans are grown.[xi]  Furthermore, Theo shares their pricing details publicly the way that Taza does.[xii]  Theo had a very robust web presence which highlighted their transparency in ethical practices, and was one of the most ethical brands I bought.

The fifth bar that I picked up was an Equal Exchange Chocolates Mint Chocolate bar.  From just the looks of the packaging, this appeared to be the most ethically focused company of the lot.  The front of the bar had a USDA Organic certification, a huge Equal Exchange logo, and advertised that it was always small farmer grown and organic and fairly traded.  The back of the bar featured a picture of a farmer next to text saying that they source only from small farmer organizations.  The inside of the wrapper told an even greater story.  Yet another farmer was featured, and information about his co-op was included.  The origin of location for the cacao, sugar, and vanilla used in the bar were identified and shown on a map.  The label also pointed out how 20,000 small scale cacao producers were helped through the purchases of this product.  Based on just the label alone, a consumer could feel fairly confident that they were making an ethical choice.  When visiting the website, this feeling was confirmed.  There, customers can learn that Equal Exchange pays “50-100% more than what [farmers] would get paid in the marketplace,” and that they offer innovate programs such as pre-harvest financing which pays “up to 60% of the Fair Trade floor price as credit” in order to support the crop in the first place.[xiii][xiv]  Everything at Equal Exchange is done to support others in a positive way, and their website uses every opportunity to show you that.

Finally, I picked up a store branded Simply Enjoy chocolate bar as a comparison.  There were no certifications of the front, just a small line of text saying that it had sustainably sourced cocoa.  On the back however, the bottom 25% of the bar was dedicated to displaying and discussing an UTZ certification.  After visiting the site, I learned that the UTZ certification process was strict and had very certain requirements.[xv]  It certainly wasn’t something I expected a store brand of chocolate to have.

After examining all of the different chocolate bars that I had purchased from the store, I realized how difficult it actually is to choose an ethically sourced and produced product while standing in front of the store shelf.  Out of all of my choices, only Theo and Equal Exchange proudly advertised and invited inquiry into their sourcing practices.  This distinction became even clearer when a little bit of research into the product became involved.  Those two brands were the only ones that included a complete and thorough look into the bean to bar process, showing consumers where the beans came from and how much the farmers were being paid.  When compared to Taza, they both reach that “top tier” of accountability and ethics.  In comparison, the other chocolate bars didn’t quite reach that same level of consumer information.  While the Endangered Species bar mentioned small farmers and price premiums, they had no publicly available data to back up their claim, leaving room for skepticism.  The Prascha bar had absolutely no information to support the claims made on the packaging, and as such should not be considered a completely ethical choice.  The Green and Black’s bar made no claims to sourcing ingredients ethically beyond Fair Trade, and everything on their website was cleverly worded to mask the fact that it is owned by a giant multi-national.  Finally, the Simply Enjoy bar didn’t hold any Fair Trade or equivalent certifications, but was at the very least had an UTZ certification.  No information on the ethics of this particular bar was available, but that certification placed it higher than other standard chocolates that were sitting in the candy aisle.

By conducting this rather unscientific experiment we see that labels alone are not enough to guide consumers to the most ethical producers of chocolate.  Furthermore, the fractures between Rainforest Alliance, Fair Trade, and UTZ certifications all signal different things, and customers must do their own research about what is most important to them.  At their core each certification wishes to transform “the world’s production systems and value chains to make them more sustainable.”[xvi]  However each accomplishes this in a different way and has its own advantages and drawbacks.  Thus the mere presence of a certification label is not enough to automatically qualify a product as ethically sourced.  It is more than likely that a consumer would have to engage in their own research outside of the supermarket aisle to determine which companies are the most deserving of a dollar.  Even when a product sports a certain label, the mere presence of that certification does not mean that the company follows best practices.

[i] “Our Story,” Taza Chocolate, accessed March 6, 2015, http://www.tazachocolate.com/About/Our_Story

[ii] “Taza Direct Trade,” Taza Chocolate, accessed March 6, 2015,http://www.tazachocolate.com/About/Taza_Direct_Trade

[iii] Ibid.

[iv]“Taza Cacao Sourcing Transparency Report 2014,” Taza Chocolate, published September 2014, http://www.tazachocolate.com/documents/file/Transparency%20Reports/Taza_Cacao_Sourcing_Transparency_Report_2014.pdf

[v] “About Us,” Green and Black’s, accessed March 6, 2015, http://us.greenandblacks.com/about-us#

[vi] Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Hazelnut Toffee.

[vii] “Who is ESC?” Endangered Species Chocolate, accessed March 6,2015, http://chocolatebar.com/docs/doc_story2014.pdf

[viii] “FAQ,” Endangered Species Chocolate, accessed March 6,2015, http://www.chocolatebar.com/docs/esc_faq.pdf

[ix] Pascha Chocolate. 70% Cacao Dark Chocolate Bar.

[x]“Our Chocolate Philosophy,” Pascha Chocolate, accessed March 6, 2015, http://paschachocolate.com/our-chocolate-philosophy/.

[xi] “Our Cocoa Beans,” Theo Chocolate, accessed March 6, 2015, https://www.theochocolate.com/our-product-info/our-cocoa-beans

[xii] “Cocoa Bean Pricing Details,” Theo Chocolate, accessed March 6, 2015, https://www.theochocolate.com/our-product-info/our-cocoa-beans/cocoa-bean-pricing-details

[xiii] “Where do your profits go?” Equal Exchange, accessed March 6, 2015, http://equalexchange.coop/about/equal-exchange/faqs/where-do-your-profits-go

[xiv] “How does pre harvest financing program work?  Why does it matter?” Equal Exchange, accessed March 6, 2015. http://equalexchange.coop/about/equal-exchange/faqs/how-does-pre-harvest-financing-program-work-why-does-matter

[xv] “How UTZ works,” UTZ, accessed March 6, 2015. https://www.utzcertified.org/en/aboututzcertified/how-utz-works

[xvi] “Joint Statement Fairtrade, SAN/Rainforest Alliance & UTZ CERTIFIED,” accessed March 6, 2015. https://www.utzcertified.org/attachments/article/2174/Joint_statement_rainforest%20alliance_fairtrade%20and_utz_certified.pdf?phpMyAdmin=3d81e3370877212193cf2f61673caf47

Works Cited

Counihan,  Carole, and Esterik, Penny Van. Food and Culture. New York: Routledge, 2013.

Endangered Species Chocolate. “Who is ESC?” Accessed March 6, 2015. http://chocolatebar.com/docs/doc_story2014.pdf

Endangered Species Chocolate. “FAQ.” Accessed March 6, 2015. http://www.chocolatebar.com/docs/esc_faq.pdf.

Endangered Species Chocolate. Dark Chocolate with Hazelnut Toffee Bar.

Equal Exchange. “Where Do Your Profits Go.” Accessed March 6, 2015.  http://equalexchange.coop/about/equal-exchange/faqs/where-do-your-profits-go

Equal Exchange. “How Does The Pre-Harvest Financing Program Work? Why Does This Matter?” Accessed March 6, 2015. http://equalexchange.coop/about/equal-exchange/faqs/how-does-pre-harvest-financing-program-work-why-does-matter.

Green and Black’s. “About Us.” Accessed March 6, 2015. http://us.greenandblacks.com/about-us#.

“Joint Statement Fairtrade, SAN/Rainforest Alliance & UTZ CERTIFIED” Accessed March 6, 2015. https://www.utzcertified.org/attachments/article/2174/Joint_statement_rainforest%20alliance_fairtrade%20and_utz_certified.pdf?phpMyAdmin=3d81e3370877212193cf2f61673caf47.

Pascha Chocolate. “Our Chocolate Philosophy.” Accessed March 6, 2015. http://paschachocolate.com/our-chocolate-philosophy/

Pascha Chocolate. 70% Cacao Dark Chocolate Bar.

Taza Chocolate. “Our Story.” Accessed March 6, 2015. http://www.tazachocolate.com/About/Our_Story

Taza Chocolate. “Taza Direct Trade.” Accessed March 6, 2015. http://www.tazachocolate.com/About/Taza_Direct_Trade

Taza Chocolate. “Transparency Reports 2014.” Published September 2014. http://www.tazachocolate.com/documents/file/Transparency%20Reports/Taza_Cacao_Sourcing_Transparency_Report_2014.pdf

Theo Chocolate. “Our Cocoa Beans.” Accessed March 6, 2015. https://www.theochocolate.com/our-product-info/our-cocoa-beans

Theo Chocolate. “Cocoa Bean Pricing Details.” Accessed March 6, 2015. https://www.theochocolate.com/our-product-info/our-cocoa-beans/cocoa-bean-pricing-details

UTZ. “How UTZ Works.” Accessed March 6, 2015. https://www.utzcertified.org/en/aboututzcertified/how-utz-works

Williams, Pam, and Eber, Jim. Raising the Bar:  The Future of Fine Chocolate. Vancouver: Wilmour Publishing, 2012.

Cocoa Beans to Better Society: Fair Trade vs. Direct Trade Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Companies

Cocoa bean products have evolved in countless ways throughout time. From drinkable chocolate beverages of the Ancient Maya and Aztec in modern-day Central America, to a worldwide audience of chocolate bar lovers, chocolate is nearly ubiquitous. The market for chocolate is extremely large and growing, with a projected $98.3 billion dollars in global sales for 2016 (MarketsandMarkets). The sweet confections serve as crowd pleasers for both children and adults alike. While many enjoy the chocolate products presented on shelves in the super market, far fewer are truly aware of the origins of the cocoa beans that they consume. In an effort to reduce the poor treatment of cocoa farmers, the Fair Trade movement took off, presented on the labels of bean-to-bar chocolate companies such as Theo Chocolate, but this effort does not necessarily help farmers as it is intended to, leaving other companies, such as Askinosie Chocolate, to pursue the direct trade approach.

Although many consider slavery to be a part of history, enslavement is still rampant and very much an issue today (Abbott 3). The Ivory Coast is home to forty-three percent of the world’s cocoa bean supply (Raghavan). Small cocoa farms are scattered throughout the West African country, providing many with labor opportunities (Raghavan). The truth about these small operations is that in some cases those working to harvest the cacao pods are young men who were either sold or tricked into slavery (Raghavan). According to a 1998 UNICEF report, many of the enslaved children used by Ivory Coast farmers come from the poorer neighboring countries of Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin and Togo (Raghavan). These child slaves were often poached from bus stops, where they were promised riches once they arrived in the Ivory Coast (Ryan 44). While many men utilized the child labor and slavery to their advantage and profit, others were silenced in their attempts to reveal the unsavory practices (Off 119). During the 1990’s, Abdoulye Macko, who has since been recalled from his position as Malian consul general in the Ivory Coast, began to hear stories of child enslavement (Off 119). Under Macko, Malian men disguised as cocoa bean transporters reported seeing local boys worked at gunpoint (Off 121). These undercover investigators also revealed that the children were kept in unfit living conditions. The boys were worked to death, received little food, slept in locked bunkhouses, were beaten and had sores on their bodies (Off 121)(Ryan 44). In one particular instance, Macko came across a boy who had been left for dead in the middle of a field, sick and exhausted, covered by a pile of leaves (Off 124). Eventually, Macko liberated a portion of the children, but could not save them all (Off 124).

This image shows a child working with cocoa beans. Images like these represent the thousands of children forced to work without pay on cocoa farms in West Africa today.

Due to the issues with the treatment of farmers that have come to light, and continue to do so, a new wave of companies has entered the chocolate industry. These companies choose to market their brand in a way that makes known to the consumer that those involved in producing their cocoa beans receive fair compensation for their work and also enjoy a high standard of living, designated by a Fair Trade label (Abbott 3). According to Fair Trade USA, they “seek to empower family farmers and workers around the world, while enriching the lives of those struggling in poverty” (“Mission/Values”). The organization claims to carry out its mission by utilizing “direct equitable trade” which in turn helps families “eat better, keep their kids in school, improve health and housing and invest in the future”(“Mission/Values”). However, the Fair Trade movement has come under scrutiny for the lack of data showing how Fair Trade practices positively impact farmers (Haight). Additionally, companies have begun to use the Fair Trade labeling as a ploy to expand their consumer base and their profits. In other words, the conscientious consumer will most likely purchase foods labeled Fair Trade, rather than those without the label, thus encouraging companies to place Fair Trade labels on products that only contain a small fraction of Fair Trade ingredients (Rosenthal). This “halo-effect” prevents the consumer from gaining a true grasp on whether or not a company is dedicated to alternative trade and the betterment of rural producers’ living conditions (Rosenthal). Another issue with the Fair Trade movement is the fact that the premiums paid by consumers do not go directly to the hands of the individual farmers themselves (Haight). Instead these extra dollars are funneled into the cooperatives that the farmers belong to (Haight). Within the collective, “farmers vote on how the premium is to be spent for collective use” (Haight). Moreover, the poorest farmers are generally migrant workers who do not own land, cannot join a cooperative and may lose business. Finally, cooperatives must pay large fees to become Fair Trade certified (Haight).

Fair Trade certifications have been expanding throughout recent years, leading many to question the real meaning behind the symbol. Companies realize both the ethical and profit potential of using Fair Trade cocoa beans. Consumers with a desire to make clear conscience choices are more likely to purchase expensive Fair Trade brands, giving these companies a chance to gain profit while also making a difference.

Theo Chocolate endeavors to incorporate ethics into their cocoa bean purchases by following the Fair Trade guidelines. The mission of Theo Chocolate is to, “make the world a better place” by “bringing out the best in the cocoa bean” by understanding the connection between the “cacao farmer in the Congo” and “the chocolate lover in Philadelphia” (Theo Chocolate). Theo Chocolate vaguely outlines how Fair Trade works in practice on their website, stating that a certification ensures that, “producers have been paid a price that enables positive economic growth for the individual and the region” (Theo Chocolate). The company does not address the issues many have with Fair Trade foods, but instead takes great care to present their product as a healthy option by stating the high amount of antioxidants within the bar as well as the potential for dark chocolate to combat high blood pressure, inhibit inflammation and increase blood flow to the brain (Theo Chocolate). They also publicize the organic and non-GMO nature of their chocolate as a way to tap into the segment of consumers who choose not to eat foods grown with “synthetic pesticides or chemical fertilizers” or genetically modified organisms (Theo Chocolate).

Theo Chocolate bars feature a delicate drip of chocolate covering the additional ingredients in their products. This simplistic imagery adds to Theo Chocolate’s commitment to producing a pure product.

Askinosie Chocolate also strives to improve the lives of rural cocoa bean farmers with their products, but does so in a manner different from Theo Chocolate. On the Askinosie website, the company’s mission is to, “craft exceptional chocolate while serving our farmers, customers, our neighborhood, and one another, striving in all we do to leave whatever part of the world we touch better for the encounter” (Askinosie Chocolate). Essentially the company seeks a balance between creating delicious chocolate products and helping to improve the current state of the world. The company claims to do this by participating in direct trade practices, allowing for face-to-face encounters between Askinosie and each individual farmer who grows their cocoa beans (Askinosie Chocolate). According to Askinosie, direct trade results in superior products than Fair Trade for many reasons. First, the farmers that the company employs are held to the high quality standards of Askinosie, rather than a middleman, or broker (Askinosie Chocolate). Secondly, the origins of the cocoa beans are 100 percent traceable, as each farmer is held responsible for their supply (Askinosie Chocolate). Lastly, the farmers receive significantly higher compensation as compared to Fair Trade prices because there is no middleman receiving a cut and Askinosie pays far higher per-ton than standard Fair Trade companies (Askinosie Chocolate). Due to the close relationship the company develops with their producers, these individual farmers are even aided in creating their first bank accounts and are provided with Askinosie’s financial statements, in the farmer’s own language, so as to understand where their profits come from (Askinosie Chocolate).

Askinosie Chocolate bars feature pictures of individuals who grow their cacao. This gives consumers the ability to easily imagine the faces of the farmers that receive their money in return for their crop.

Askinosie and Theo Chocolate take pride in the origin of their respective products and also their bean-to-bar chocolate making processes. The Askinosie beans come from Davao, Philippines, Mababu, Tanzania, Cortés, Honduras and San Jose Del Tambo, Ecuador and each have their own rich history (Askinosie Chocolate). On the other hand, Theo Chocolate imports cocoa beans from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Dominican Republic, Panama and Ecuador (Theo Chocolate). Askinosie Chocolate features each step of their “70-Step Process” on their website while Theo Chocolate outlines in detail the five steps the beans go through once they enter their factory (Theo Chocolate)(Askinosie Chocolate). The packaging on Askinosie chocolate bars features photos of the farmers themselves, along with a description of where they are from. This helps to create a feeling of intimacy between the consumer and the producer, while also presenting a face and reason for the high mark-ups of the bars, when compared to the relative low prices of Hershey’s and Mars bars (Askinosie Chocolate). Alternatively, Theo Chocolate utilizes simple packaging with a colorful font and an image of the fresh ingredients to come inside the wrapper. This gives the consumer a taste of what to expect and serves as a signal for the quality of the candy bar, while providing a reason for the higher prices compared to other candy bars (Theo Chocolate).

While both companies do well to follow their mission and create a world with ethical methods of production and a higher standard of living for those in poverty, they may not be meeting this goal to the same degree of success. Askinosie Chocolate provides a great deal of information to the consumer about how direct trade positively impacts the lives of farmers at the micro level while Theo Chocolate does not. They do present their products as beneficial to society, but do not choose to truly reveal how their Fair Trade practices impact individual farmers abroad. Both companies do, however, source their cocoa beans from areas free of slavery and make products far healthier than many of their competitors in the chocolate market. Overall, I think products such as these, that require a consumer to consider the far-reaching implications of their purchases, will help to create a more just world, but that does not mean that these practices cannot be improved upon.

Works Cited:

Abbott, Phillip. Purdue University. International Agricultural Trade Research Consortium, April 2003. Web. 2 May 2015.

Askinosie Chocolate. Askinosie Chocolate, 2015. Web. 2 May 2015.

Haight, Colleen. “The Problem with Fair Trade Coffee”. Stanford University. Stanford Social Innovation Review, 2011. Web. 2 May 2015.

MarketsandMarkets. “Global Chocolate Market worth $98.3 Billion by 2016”. MarketsandMarkets, 2015. Web. 2 May 2015.

“Mission/Values”. Fair Trade USA. Fairtradeusa.org, 2015. Web. 2 May 2015.

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

Raghavan, Sudharsan and Sumana Chatterjee. “A Taste of Slavery”. UCSD. Knight Ridder Newspapers, 24 June 2001. Web. 2 May 2015.

Rosenthal, Jonathon. “Fair Trade: The Long Journey That Informs the Current Reality”. Fair World Project. For a Better World, 2012. Web. 2 May 2015.

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

Theo Chocolate. Theo Chocolate, 2015. Web. 2 May 2015.


1) http://roarmag.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Ivory-Coast-Chocolate-Child-Labor-Slavery.jpeg

2) http://www.confectionerynews.com/var/plain_site/storage/images/publications/food-beverage-nutrition/confectionerynews.com/commodities/fairtrade-chocolate-set-for-uplift-after-fresh-approach/8755044-1-eng-GB/Fairtrade-chocolate-set-for-uplift-after-fresh-approach.jpg

3) http://www.candyindustry.com/ext/resources/images/11-2013-EVERYDAY/Theo-Chocolate-Bars1.jpg

4) http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/shared/npr/201302/171939373.jpg

A small company in a big industry, Taza Chocolate is making a difference

The chocolate industry today is dominated by several large conglomerates like Mars, Hershey’s, Nestle that make up a large portion of the market in North America.  To put it in perspective, nearly 99.4% of snack sized chocolates are produced by the aforementioned companies!  A more recent-growing subdivision of the industry consists of craft chocolate makers.  Many young consumers can’t seem to get enough of it due to its old-fashioned style.  In her article in the Wall Street Journal, Alina Dizik describes it as “earthier, spicier and generally made with less sugar than sweet, creamy, European-style chocolate.”  In the article, Dr. Carla Martin of Harvard and Dr. Bletter, co-founder of Madre Chocolate, both are quoted in saying that the appeal to this type of chocolate is due largely to its adherence to chocolate’s original roots in ancient civilizations (Dizik).  Typically, Craft chocolate makers have company missions that attempt to eradicate some of the issues that exist within the broader chocolate industry.  Many issues regarding economic sustainability and exploitative labor are ubiquitous throughout the industry.  For example, Endangered Species chocolate helps to encourage funding for the animals who serve as their namesake.  A particularly interesting and pioneering bean-to-bar craft chocolate maker is Taza of Somerville, Massachusetts. Taza chocolate attempts to encourage economic and social growth and sustainability in underprivileged areas. Through the creation of the Direct Trade Certification program, Taza has laid a framework to help eradicate significant cacao-industry issues like under-compensation, lack of quality incentives, and exploitative labor practices.

Prior to understanding the ways in which Taza Chocolate has had a positive influence on the chocolate industry, it is useful to understand when and how this trailblazing company came to fruition.  According to Taza Chocolate’s company website, When Alex Whitmore traversed Central and South America he garnered a growing appreciation for both the work of cacao farmers and the incredible products that work could produce – mainly stone ground chocolate.  In Oaxaca, Mexico, Whitmore tasted his first piece of this unique chocolate and it had a tremendous impact on him.  He decided to apprentice at an Oaxaca chocolate factory and learn the ins-and-outs of the business, as he had plans to bring this industry back home to the Northeast.  Just a year later in 2006, Whitmore owned factory space in Somerville, Massachusetts along with a combination of both innovative and old-fashioned style machinery.  As his dream of starting a stone ground chocolate company from the ground up has finally begun to materialize, its success faltered due to a lack of quality ingredients.  While in Mexico, Whitmore tasted some of the most delectable chocolate he’s ever had, but it was difficult to purchase anything of even remotely the same quality on the open market back at home.  Not only were the initial beans not of great quality, most of the money Whitmore paid would end up in the hands of the middleman and not end up with the farmers who worked to create them.  Upon this discovery, Whitmore again made his way south to traverse the land in search of quality beans that would help to better create his product.  Whitmore established and maintained relationships with several cacao cooperatives and paid them a premium above market price for the cacao beans – the beginning of his Direct Trade Certification Program.  With this direct link to his cacao producers, the company of Taza Chocolate bore a mission to “make and share stone ground chocolate that is seriously good and fair forever” (Taza).   Below is a video that help’s to portray Taza’s story:

These values are in accordance with Taza Chocolate and their marketing strategy helps to pass that message along.  As you can see, values aside from profit maximization shine through this promotional video.  It seems as if the company is involved in the chocolate industry simply for the love of the industry.  Taza chocolate is a family business with intentions on creating a quality product that is fair and helpful to everyone.  As aforementioned, some of the major issues that Taza attacks include the unjust compensation for farmers, the presence of exploitative labor practices, and a lack of quality incentives for cacao farmers.

A 2011 study indicated that the average income per capita for a Ghanaian cocoa family household is below $0.30 a day – this is equivalent to just over $120 per year!  Chocolate is a $100 billion annual industry, but consistent cocoa farmer poverty exists in many of the production regions nonetheless.  Below is a map that details data on poverty worldwide.



It is interesting to look at many of the cacao growing regions like the Ivory Coast, Western Africa, Central America and the northern part of South America. In Africa, Cacao growing regions experience anywhere from 30 to even greater than 60% of the population living below the poverty line.  Similarly staggering are the numbers in Central and Southern America, where many of the Cacao producing regions have 40% of the population living below the poverty line.

Taza Chocolate’s efforts in fighting for farmer compensation through their direct trade system is certainly encouraging, but it isn’t an entirely new idea.  It came in response to the shortcomings of a more ubiquitous and well-known movement known as Fair-Trade certification. Fair Trade, operating under the slogan “Quality Products. Improving Lives. Protecting the Planet.” seeks to help farmers in underprivileged areas build sustainable businesses while fighting for fair prices and wages, a direct trade system, and protection against exploitative labor practices.   Below is an infographic that depicts the results of their efforts in the cacao industry.

Fair Trade


While declaring several of the principles I’ve already mentioned, the infographic above also depicts some numeric evidence as to the Fair Trade system’s movement.  While increasing the price to the consumer by just 2%, Fair Trade allows for a 20% producer compensation increase.  Fair trade USA, according to their mission, seeks to foster worldwide change by using “a market-based approach that empowers farmers to get a fair price for their harvest, helps workers create safe working conditions, provides a decent living wage and guarantees the right to organize” (FairTrade).

Despite their company mission and the change they seek, many critics argue that Fair Trade USA has issues that prevents it from realizing its potential as a truly groundbreaking, life-improving operation.  Fair Trade retail sales amount to nearly $3 billion worldwide annually.  Critics say that much of these earnings do not actually reach the developing world, and even less reaches the farmers themselves (Martin).  In addition to this, there is a heavy cost shouldered by the farmers in order to become a certified farm or cooperative that can trade within the Fair Trade market.  Farmers are required to pay hefty certification fees and also pay surcharges for additional profits generated.  Moreover, despite an institutional value of fairness – “We work to create opportunities and extend the benefits of globalization to all people, everywhere.” (fairtradeUSA) -.Fair Trade is exclusionary as individual farmers that cannot afford the certification fees and surcharges are unable to become actors in the market, regardless of the quality of their cocoa bean.  Enter Alex Whitmore and his idea for Direct Trade.  Below is a video in which Mr. Whitmore discusses his journey in establishing Taza as a Direct Trade Craft Chocolate Maker.

In many ways, Taza’s Direct Trade Certification program attempts to build upon some of the shortcomings of Fair Trade.  Essentially, Whitmore explains that the Fair Trade model didn’t make much sense to Taza, especially if trying to adhere to the mission that it markets.   First and foremost, direct trade pays a premium far and above the price in the market from fair trade products.  In addition to this, the limits on participation are significantly mitigated.  Independent farmers are allowed to participate, it is not necessary to be a part of a cooperative.  Additionally, there are smaller fees and surcharges to become part of the Direct Trade Certification program.  There are several reasons for these differences that Whitmore explains.  Often times, due to the lack of capital and profit that actually reaches these farmers, quality of the cocoa produced suffers in an effort to maximize production at a low cost.  However, if more of the returns are actually claimed by the farmer or cooperative, and they do not have to pay significant involvement and certification fees, then ideally funds can be reallocated to preserving and producing high quality cacao.  In addition to improving these quality incentives, paying a larger premium and requiring a lesser fee for participation aids development and poverty in these underprivileged areas.  By encouraging economic growth and fostering sustainability, Taza’s direct Trade Program is helping to eradicate some of the economic issues that exist within the chocolate industry.

In addition to their economic efforts, Taza also prides themselves on being a socially responsible enterprise.  Although striving for economic sustainability is admirable, it ultimately doesn’t solve any of the major social issues that exist within the chocolate industry.  That said, there are two main facets to Taza’s social responsibility – creating and maintaining direct relationships and having a tough stance against exploitative labor.  The Direct Trade Certification program encourages direct communication between buyer and farmer through price negotiation.  They are committed to maintaining these direct relationships – they annually visit each of the cooperatives and farms with which they trade.  Although this is effective, no better evidence of Taza’s social efforts exists than their stance on exploitative labor.    According to research conducted by David McKenzie and Brent Swails at CNN, “child labor, trafficking and slavery are rife in an industry that produces some of the world’s best-known brands.”  The researchers go on to explain that “UNICEF estimates that nearly a half-million children work on farms across Ivory Coast, which produces nearly 40% of the world’s supply of cocoa. The agency says hundreds of thousands of children, many of them trafficked across borders, are engaged in the worst forms of child labor” (McKenzie).  As staggering as these figures may seem, it still hasn’t been enough to pass legislation to help prevent this exploitation.  As a socially responsible enterprise, Taza only buys cacao from farmers and cooperatives that ensure fair and humane labor practices and working conditions.

Currently, Taza chocolate maintains relationships with farms and cooperatives in the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, and Belize.  They are working to help institute quality controls and economic and agricultural sustainability. Through Taza’s vast effort to maintain direct relationships, provide more just compensation, and eradicate exploitative labor practices in these underprivileged areas, they have found a way to efficiently improve the system started by Fair Trade and ensure economic growth and sustainability while simultaneously encouraging a socially acceptable manner of production.  While, Taza’s pioneering efforts in the economic and social spheres of the chocolate industry are certainly impressive, there are certainly limitations as to how much positive impact they can have.  Many of today’s companies, especially those that fiercely dominate the chocolate industry are either involved in Fair Trade, implementing their own different strategy, or don’t participate in any controlled system whatsoever.  Until most of the industry actors are on the same page and are working together to make major social and economic changes, many of the aforementioned issues will persist.  Regardless, Taza is doing what they can to start the process, and it’s pretty impressive.


Works Cited

 “Direct Trade Certified Cacao.” Taza Chocolate. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 April 2015.

Dizik, Alina. “Stone-Ground Chocolate Gets Hate Mail and Lots of Love.” Wall Street Journal. Wall Street Journal, 13 Jan. 2015. Web. 01 May 2015.

“Fair Trade USA Mission/Values.” About Fair Trade USA. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.

Martin, Carla D. “Alternative Trade and Virtuous Localization/Globalization.” AAAS 119x Lecture 18. Emerson Hall 210, Cambridge. Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “Modern Day Slavery.” AAAS 119x Lecture 15. Emerson Hall 210, Cambridge. Lecture.

McKenzie, David, and Swails, Brent. January 19, 2012. “Child Slavery and chocolate: All too Easy to find.” CNN.

“The Taza Chocolate Story.” Taza Chocolate. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 April 2015.

You’re Not You When You’re Hungry: The Personality Based Approach of Snickers

Back in 2010, Snickers launched their “You’re not you when you’re hungry” campaign when they aired the following commercial at Super Bowl XLIV.  This started a series of personality-based ads that focused on individual characteristics and traits instead of traditional gender stereotypes, creating a more positive advertising environment.

Here we see a group of young men playing football, but one of the players turns out to be Golden Girl actress Betty White.  She’s struggling to keep up with the guys, and after a tackle, the group gathers for a huddle.  One of the players calls her “Mike” and says that he’s playing like Betty White out there.  Soon after, Betty White is shown unwrapping and eating a Snickers Bar, at which point White turns into a young twenty-something man like the rest of the team.  When asked if he feels better, he replies “Better.”  As the ad closes, we see another supposedly hungry player in the form of an elderly man being tackled after having possession of the ball.

When examining this ad, we see that Mars has taken special care to create a fairly equal gendered representation of the people in their hungry state.  Many chocolate advertisements place women in a bad light, painting them either as sexually or mentally crazed at the thought of chocolate.  Here, Snickers chose to focus on the perceived slowness of age instead of gender.  Both a man and a woman were presented as hungry and therefore ineffective at their task of playing football.  Instead of just turning into women when hungry and implying that this is some form of weakness, the actors simply transformed into someone else of advanced age.

We see this focus on “not being yourself” when hungry rather than gendered values repeated in many other advertisements for Snickers.  Below are two print ads showing athletes incorrectly setting up for action in a way that would cause them a loss.  The following video shows Godzilla being fun to be around until he gets hungry, at which point he becomes destructive.  In most of the advertisements that Snickers releases, the focus is on not acting as yourself and not behaving in the way you usually would in a typical situation.

You don’t act like this if you want to win

One reason for this may be that Mars has created a Global Marketing Code for Food, Chocolate, Confections, and Gum.  After a long section describing how Mars does not market to children under 12 years of age, the guidelines state that

“Advertising for our products should not depict or be placed in programs or media involving:

  1. Ethnic, racial, religious or sexual stereotyping or ridicule [or]
  2. Explicit sexual behavior or inappropriate sexual suggestiveness or innuendo.”(Mars Global Marketing Code)

By enumerating these practices into a code of ethics that is closely followed, Mars breaks away from many of the traditional and stereotypical tropes that are used when advertising chocolate.  This not only creates a more positive social atmosphere, but is beneficial to Mars as well.  By breaking into new territory, ads stand out more and as a result become more memorable and effective. (Harvard Business Review)

That’s why I would continue with the current line of advertising.


In my own version here, President Obama sends some Snickers to Putin of Russia, claiming that he’s mean when he’s hungry and that people don’t like that.  After eating the candy bar, Putin feels better and says “Thanks Obama,” a popular part of current memes.  This continues on with Snickers’ current method of advertising, showing that when hungry, people don’t act like their normal, rational selves. They don’t think clearly and they act in unacceptable ways.  The implication is that by performing the simple act of sharing a Snickers bar, world leaders can help to create a more peaceful co-existence.  By extension this would also apply to the lives of everyday people around the world.  When you’re upset or not thinking straight, the ad wants you to take the proper steps to correct that (with their product of course).

When looking at the type of advertising that Mars releases for Snickers, we see that they have stuck to their Global Marketing Code and placed emphasis on personality traits rather than tired gender stereotypes.  Their current ads focus on how people can act when not at the top of their game, and how much of an impact that can have on their goals.  Instead of simply targeting an audience with the same old clichéd and sexist depictions of women, Snickers has embraced both genders, focused on personality, and created a highly effective and memorable campaign.

Works Cited

Werner Reinartz and Peter Saffert, “Creativity in Advertising: When It Works and When It Doesn’t,” Harvard Business Review June (2013), accessed April 12, 2015, https://hbr.org/2013/06/creativity-in-advertising-when-it-works-and-when-it-doesnt

“Mars Global Marketing Code for Food, Chocolate, Confections, and Gum,” accessed April 12, 2015, http://www.mars.com/global/assets/documents/MMC_Handbook.pdf.

Media Sources











The Desire for Chocolate: Embracing or Rejecting the Female Chocolate “Craving” in Chocolate Advertisements

The market for chocolate is extremely large and growing, with a projected $98.3 billion dollars in global sales for 2016, leaving chocolate companies in a competition for dominance (Omar). In today’s society, chocolate bars are often considered delicacies to be consumed as a tool of escape and pleasure, helping to increase chocolate’s popularity. Often individuals claim that their consumption of chocolate comes from an insatiable craving (Benton). In a Canadian study, around 97% of women, compared to 68% of men, reported cravings for chocolate either as a source of distraction from everyday life or as a result of weakness stemming from emotional distress (Benton). Most chocolate companies advertise their products to a female audience as a way to capitalize on the stereotypical belief that women are more helpless to the allure of chocolate than men, allowing Yorkie to take the opposite approach and target the male segment of society with advertisements that promote traditional gender stereotypes of female inadequacy and weakness.

The following video shows women giving into their guilty pleasures, or insatiable cravings of chocolate, while promoting the idea that these cravings are ‘only human’ as they are intrinsic to females across the globe. While the narrator admits that women try to be perfect, she concedes that they also need to “cut themselves some slack” and give into the temptation of chocolate from time to time.

 yorkieWhile many chocolate advertisements strive to utilize the common female chocolate craving, Yorkie, a British chocolate bar founded in 1976 and owned by Nestle, chose to approach chocolate advertising in a unique manner (“Yorkie”). While the Yorkie was originally championed as “the chunkier alternative to the slimmed down Dairy Milk bars,” beginning in 2001, the company began to target a solely male consumer base through the use of print ads barring women from their product (Omar). In the advertisement provided to the right, Yorkie features their chocolate bar covered in blue, a traditionally male color, with bold, yellow and uppercase lettering. This lettering, both in the brand name and in the wording surrounding, symbolizes the robustness of the brand and the power associated with eating the product. It also serves as a warning for women to not approach the candy. The statement, “DO NOT FEED THE BIRDS” perpetuates the long-standing stereotype of feebleness in women compared to men, while “SAVE YOUR MONEY FOR DRIVING LESSONS” serves to invalidate female ability and agency. The O of the Yorkie and the tagline beneath serve to reveal that the candy bar is “NOT FOR GIRLS,” providing proof that only ‘strong men’ can handle eating the product. Each element of the packaging and wording serves to alienate the chocolate product from the female consumer in an attempt to make men comfortable with consuming chocolate themselves. It feeds the masculine stereotype that men want to be perceived as tougher and stronger than their female counterpart.


Our ad seeks to remove the overt messages banning female consumption of the Yorkie, while still allowing the Yorkie brand to cater to the male segment of the chocolate market. Thus our ad still maintains the blue wrapping of the bar and the bold, yellow lettering. On the other hand, the ad we have created seeks to dispel the need for sexism to sell a product. By using the phrase, “DO NOT FEED THE SEXISM” our ad encourages both men and women to purchase a product that does not ostracize 50 percent of the global population. In the new ad, the tagline, “It’s for everyone” opens the consumer base up to the women of the world. Additionally, the phrase, “SPEND YOUR MONEY HOW YOU WANT” embraces the western ideals of choice and individuality that are important to both men and women alike. This phrase also speaks to the male working class population that the Yorkie was originally intended for (Omar). Previous to the sexist ads employed today, commercial segments for the brand featured truck drivers enjoying a moment in their busy schedules with the candy bar (Omar).

While Yorkie’s advertising campaign may seem shocking, the ads have stood the test of time for the past fourteen years. In fact, research shows that Yorkie sales increased by 30% just 12 weeks following the launch of the campaign in 2001 (Omar). In many ways, women are left to choose between two extremes in regard to the ads. While some women may laugh at the ads, they could be construed as buying into sexism (Mills). On the other hand, if women are offended by Yorkie’s ads, they may be seen as humorless and cynical (Mills). The real problem with the campaign is that the attempts at humor fail due to gender inequality. The fact remains that men and women are not considered equal in society, as seen by the wage gap, causing Yorkie advertisements to leave a sour taste in many people’s mouths. As Yorkie continues production, those in charge of branding may want to think about re-strategizing their print ads so as to attract more women to their brand, and grow in sales.

Works Cited:

Omar, Zain. “How Sexism Increased Sales for Yorkie”. Evidence Based Marketing. 12 June 2011. Web. 9 April 2015.

Mills, Sarah. “Third Wave Feminist Linguistics and the Analysis of Sexism”. Sheffield Hallam University. n.d. Web. 9 April 2015.

Benton, David. “The Biology and Psychology of Chocolate Craving”. Coffee, Tea, Chocolate and the Brain. Ed. Astrid Nehlig. Boca Raton: CRC Press LLC, 2004. Print.

“Yorkie”. Nestle. n.d. April 9 2015.



DoveChocolateTV. “DOVE Chocolate “Only Human” TV Commercial”. Online Video Clip. YOUTUBE. Youtube, 23 July 2010. Web. 9 April 2015.

Second and Third Image:


Sexism in Contemporary Chocolate Marketing

The influence of marketing on consumers cannot be overstated. What we ultimately buy can be affected by how the product is portrayed. Increasingly so, companies rely on marketing that employs derogatory connotations in order to appeal to its consumer base. (Cohan 325) Specifically, chocolate companies utilize existing stereotypes of female domesticity and chocolate infatuation to enhance the appeal of their product. This marketing approach is a result of historical legacies of chocolate advertising, which originally portrayed women in this way in order to persuade and coax the growing class of female consumers into buying their products.

Sexist stereotypes have been incorporated into chocolate advertising since the early 20th century. In her book Chocolate, women and empire: A social and cultural history, Emma Robertson explores the use of these elements in the marketing of Rowntree’s Cocoa, a British confectionary brand. She cites an internal memo, which highlights that the firm’s approach should be “any technique by which we can appeal to the mother’s concern for the well-being of her family or her related anxiety about being a successful mother and winning the loyalty and gratitude of her husband and children.” (Robertson 20) Rowntree’s strategy is to guilt the mother into buying its products. This type of marketing also serves to marginalize her standing in the family because she is supposed to focus only on pleasing her husband and ensuring his comfort. The ads suggest that women could serve their families well by buying Rowntree’s chocolate. In this way, women were portrayed as being relegated to a subservient housewife role in early chocolate marketing.

Another sexist element present in Rowntree advertising is the claim that women are infatuated with chocolate. It is premised on the notion that women attempt to resist the temptation of chocolate, but cannot restrain themselves in the end. (Robertson 34)

1923 Rowntree’s Chocolates advertisement

In this 1920s advertisement, the woman, (presumably a wife) has received a Rowntree’s box of chocolates from her husband. She is mesmerized by the product, as evidenced by her intense stare at the box. Her husband sees her delight, and knows that he has given her the perfect gift. Marketing like this served to denigrate women as unable to control themselves (possibly animalistic) in their obsession with chocolate. Additionally, given the husband’s reaction, this advertisement implicitly suggested that accepting chocolate as a gift was another way women could flatter their husbands.

The stereotypes aforementioned are still ingrained in contemporary chocolate marketing.

Rolos, now produced by Nestle, were actually a creation of Rowntree’s Cocoa. The advertisement depicts a young couple where the wife is assisting her injured husband. She brings him water and his phone after he asks for them. As she is coming back, she sees him eat her last Rolo. She has visions of explosive anger and utter disbelief. Yet, she reverts back into reality and expresses no disappointment. In fact, she reassures her husband, saying, “Honey, it’s fine.” The ad ends with the slogan “Do you love someone enough to give them your last Rolo?” The ad is intended to appeal to the broad public, as Rolos are not marketed as luxury chocolate. It utilizes humor (the woman’s vision) that is relatable to viewers of all ages, including children. The ad is trying to show how much people value their chocolate, especially the last piece.

However, the ad draws attention to specific stereotypes through the differing actions of the husband and wife. For example, the husband believes eating the last piece is inconsequential and casually throws it in his mouth. Yet, the wife is seen reacting very emotionally to the husband eating the chocolate. This dichotomy underscores the idea that women act lustfully around chocolate. Additionally, seeing her internal and external reaction promulgates the belief that women are submissive around men. She is extremely distraught at him having eaten her last piece, but does not raise any objections in actuality. She does not reveal her true feelings in an attempt to placate her husband. She is also seen running errands for him, by bringing him water and his phone, which reinforces the image of women as housewives.

Our group sought to challenge the belief that chocolate advertisements must contain sexist undertones to effectively market the company’s products. In this belief, we created an ad that we consider has as much marketing appeal as the actual Rolo advertisement, but without disparaging connotations.

Screen Shot 2015-04-10 at 12.49.29 AM

This advertisement depicts the same couple and has broad appeal as before. However, both the husband and wife are willing to allow the other to eat the last piece of chocolate. This image portrays the wife as wanting to see her husband happy. At the same time, she is not being pressured into accepting a subservient role in the couple. The husband and wife are both content with not indulging in the chocolate in order to see their partner delighted. In this way, the couple is shown to be on equal footing. Another important element of this advertisement is the slogan, “Share the Love.” It presents a more altruistic and considerate message to the audience than the slogan of the real ad, which serves to create a division between the couple. In this way, our image removes the stereotypes that are implicitly attached to the real Rolo ad.

Sexist overtones in chocolate marketing, such as female domesticity and chocolate infatuation, were introduced in chocolate marketing as a way to attract more consumers. Many of these connotations are still utilized in contemporary advertisements, as evidenced by the Rolo ad discussed. Our group set out to create an advertisement that did not incorporate these disparaging elements. The image presented above, we believe, would still have the same public appeal and thus not inhibit Rolos’ sales.

Image Citations (in order of use):



Works Cited:

Cohan, John A. “Towards a New Paradigm in the Ethics of Women’s Advertising.” Springer 33.4 (2001): 323-37. JSTOR. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

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

History’s Role in Sexist Chocolate Advertisements

Food companies have, for many years now, used advertisements as a way of bolstering the sales of their products by making them more attractive to the public. Chocolate producing firms are no exception to this, and have made use of various different marketing tools to help influence people to buy their products. Today, chocolate advertisements can frequently be seen to utilise sexist stereotypes surrounding women in order to enhance the public’s urge to purchase chocolate. I believe it can be argued that the current levels of sexism seen in chocolate commercials can be attributed to significant historical changes both to the chocolate industry and to the way that women were perceived in society in the early and mid 1900’s. Furthermore, it can be argued that the current use of sexist stereotypes in chocolate commercials is unacceptable and, by reducing it, chocolate companies will be benefiting society as a whole.

A prime example of a chocolate advertisement that demonstrates the use of sexist stereotypes is the recently televised Rolo commercial (seen below). The commercial portrays a relatively young couple where the woman in the relationship is catering to her injured boyfriend by bringing him things. Whilst doing this, her boyfriend casually eats her last Rolo chocolate. Upon seeing this, the woman envisions herself dropping his things in anger of the situation, breaking them in the process. However, when he askes if his actions were okay, she tells him it is fine. The tagline at the end of the commercial asks the question ‘Do you love anyone enough to give them your last Rolo?’

Seemingly targeted at a general audience, the aim of this commercial appears to be focused on highlighting, in a comical fashion, the importance of chocolate to people, or more specifically, women, and how they deem it acceptable to share it only with loved ones. It also, possibly unintentionally, demonstrates the dichotomy between men and women in terms of their views towards chocolate, as, whilst the woman clearly places a very high value on the last Rolo, the man nonchalantly tosses it into his mouth, unaware of its importance to his girlfriend.

To achieve the aim of this commercial, the advertisers made use of some commonly known stereotypes surrounding women and their perceived role in society. Firstly, the events of the commercial suggest that women are inferior and submissive to men, as the woman gets her boyfriend his things and also tells him his actions were fine when this is not what she truly believes. Secondly, the commercial also highlights the commonly held notion that women love and cherish chocolate far more than men.

The use of these stereotypes is not unique to the Rolo commercial, but instead very common amongst present day advertisements for chocolate. The industrial revolution can be said to play a role in the sexism that we see in today’s advertisements, as it resulted in chocolate being a food that could be purchased by the working class. Because of this, women were the main targets to confectionary companies, as they were considered the ‘purchasing agents’ of the family who could act in the interest of their husbands (Robertson). The stereotype that women love chocolate, on the other hand, can be said to stem from the 1960’s, when the social power of women increased. Because of this, chocolate advertisements implemented the idea that women didn’t need men when they had chocolate (Anderson). This led to the belief that men could buy chocolate to help secure sex from women, further enhancing the idea that women love chocolate (Parkin).

A Rowntree poster from the 1920’s showing a women presenting chocolate to her husband
A Rowntree poster from the 1920’s showing a women presenting chocolate to her husband

Thus, it is clear that the stereotypes used in todays chocolate commercials are a result of adjustments in marketing across the early 20th century to accommodate for changes in the chocolate industry and women’s social status. The fact that Chocolate companies persist in using these stereotypes highlights the broader issues of sex and gender inequality in chocolate commercials. The idea that companies feel no need to remove these from their advertisement campaigns highlights a major cultural blind spot in today’s society regarding the issue and history of gender inequality and stereotyping of women. By removing them from their commercials, chocolate companies can act for the collective benefit of society by not endorsing the unacceptable treatment of women and bringing to attention the history behind it.

An example of a way that Rolo could have instead created their advertisement can be seen below. Like with the Rolo commercial shown above, this advertisement targets a general audience with the comical use of a young couple. However, unlike in the original advertisement, this shows both partners arguing that the other should get the last Rolo. This implies that both the man and the woman highly cherish the importance of the last Rolo due to their love of chocolate, thus confronting the specific stereotype that women love chocolate more than men and the more general notion that men are superior to women. This is summarized by the tag line ‘share the love’, which opposes that of the original commercial. Thus it is clear that Rolo could have achieved their aim of the original commercial without the use of sexist stereotypes.

A potential Rolo Advert
A potential Rolo Advert

Ultimately, it is evident that sexism in todays chocolate commercials is simply a continuation of advertising methods introduced during the 20th century, Furthermore, it is clear that in today’s society, this use of sexism is unacceptable, and by removing it from their commercials, chocolate companies will be benefitting society as a whole.

Works Cited:

  • Robertson, E. ‘Chocolate, Women, and Empire: A Social and Cultural History’ (2010)
  • Anderson, L.V. ‘What’s Up with the Stereotype That Women Love Chocolate?’ Slate Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Apr. 2015.
  • Parkin, K.J. ‘Food Is Love: Advertising and Gender Roles in Modern America’ (2007)