Tag Archives: valentine’s day

Chocolate Holidays: Consumption and Gifting in Socio-Historical Context

The contemporary cacao-chocolate industry benefits greatly from seasonal sales surrounding major American holidays. In the U.S. market, Easter/Passover, Christmas/Hannukah, Halloween, and St. Valentine’s Day see large spikes in candy and chocolate sales. These contemporary patterns of chocolate purchasing and consumption are intimately bound to a broader historical and social context. By exploring associations between chocolate and each of these major candy-selling holidays, I analyze the legacies of colonialism, religious debates, gender stereotypes, and industrialization in modern consumption and gift-giving patterns.

The candy industry is a giant in the U.S. economy. Nielson (2015) reports that candy, including chocolate and non-chocolate products, is the third top-selling category among food and non-alcoholic beverage categories in America with $20.8 billion in sales in 2014. American consumers buy candy year-round, making up the majority of all candy dollar sales (Nielson 2015). However, seasonal candy sales are a fast-growing sector of the candy industry, increasing by 5.8% in 2014 (Nielson 2015). Nearly 20% of all annual candy sales in 2014 occurred during five top-selling holiday weeks (Nielson 2015). These top 5 holiday weeks are, in order of greatest to least candy sales: Easter/Passover, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Pre-Christmas/Hanukkah, and Christmas/Hanukkah (Nielson 2015). During each of these holiday seasons chocolate sales spike along with the sales of all candies. Chocolate is an illustrative example that sheds light on broader changes in consumption and underlying social meanings over time.

Winter Holidays and Hot Chocolate: A Colonial Legacy

The Judeo-Christian winter holidays of Christmas and Hannukah account for two of the top five weeks of all candy sales in the United States. Chocolate is an important part of these holidays. During Hannukah, traditional chocolate coins wrapped in gold and silver foil are gifted to children (Prichep 2014). During Christmas celebrations, people bake chocolate chip cookies for Santa Claus and exchange chocolates as gifts. Throughout the winter holidays, hot chocolate is a special treat. In the following clip from the Polar Express, a children’s Christmas movie, hot chocolate is associated with the Christmas holiday and is depicted as a childhood luxury.

Chocolate as a beverage has a long and complex history that highlights European colonialism. Chocolate is one preparation of the beans from the tree theobroma cacao. Cacao was first domesticated and consumed by Mesoamerican Olmec, Aztec, and Maya peoples (Coe and Coe 1996). For these indigenous Mesoamericans, cacao was a beverage, not a solid bar (Sampeck and Thayn 2017). The most treasured part of the cacao beverage was the foam, which was produced by pouring the beverage on high from one vessel to another and later by mixing with a molinillo (a colonial invention) (Coe and Coe 1996). The image below depicts a Maya woman pouring cacao to create foam as was common practice. Today, we still add foam to our hot chocolate in the form of marshmallows and whipped cream (Coe and Coe 1996, 49; Leissle 2018). Contrary to modern hot chocolate, cacao was sometimes consumed cold by the Mesoamericans (Coe and Coe 1996). Maya and Aztec elites also exchanged cacao as a gift in royal marriages, military victories, holiday ceremonies, and political negotiations (Leissle 2018). The history of chocolate as a beverage and gift extends to the very origins of domesticated cacao.

Image from Late Classic Maya vessel (c. A.D. 750), known as the Princeton Vase. Woman to the far right pours a cacao beverage to create foam.

Hot chocolate came to resemble what we know today through European colonial modification. Spanish colonizers came to refer to all cacao preparations as chocolate because the most profitable cacao-producing region, Izalcos, was known for a specific preparation named “chocolatl” (Sampeck and Thayn 2017, 79). Cacao was introduced to Europe by Spanish colonizers as “chocolate,” a hot beverage. Europeans adapted the traditional cacao beverages to include ingredients that were common in Europe, such as cinnamon, almonds, sugar, and floral elements (Sampeck and Thayn 2017, 85). Chocolate-drinking spread among the European royalty via intermarriage, and material culture developed around chocolate (Coe and Coe 1996). The French elite served chocolate in a silver chocolatiere with porcelain cups and saucers, which can also be seen in the clip from Polar Express (Coe and Coe 1996, 158-9). North American chocolate tastes and recipes most closely resemble the British and European preparations of hot chocolate, transmitted to America during our own colonial period (Sampeck and Thayn 2017, 89). Thus, the story of hot chocolate and its significant place in our own holidays draws heavily on early Mesoamerican rituals and traditions as well as colonial European modifications. The experience of a creamy hot chocolate today is intimately bound to a legacy of colonialism.

Easter, Chocolate, and the Church

The Easter and Passover spring holidays account for the single greatest week of candy sales annually. In the week preceding Easter in 2014 Americans spent $823 million on candy and purchased 146 million pounds of sweets (Fahey 2016). This level of consumption is interesting given the history of chocolate, the Catholic church, and the Lenten season.

In the Catholic religious tradition, the Easter holiday marks the end of Lent, months of fasting and reflection. Upon cacao’s introduction to European society, the Catholic clergy debated whether consuming chocolate beverages broke the fast. Catholic missionaries were active in the colonization and Christianization of indigenous Mesoamericans and had early exposure to cacao. Beginning in 1591 with Juan de Cardenas, militant clergymen argued that, though beverages (as chocolate was in those days) were generally exempt from the fast, chocolate offered substantial nourishment, which would break the fast (Coe and Coe 1996, 149). Debates raged in the clergy for nearly three centuries over the issue of chocolate and the fast, pitting the chocolate-trading Jesuits against the puritanical Dominicans (Coe and Coe 1996, 149). Seven Catholic popes commented on the issue over the years, arguing that consuming chocolate would not break the Lenten fast (Coe and Coe 1996, 150). Perhaps these clerical debates set us down the path of viewing chocolate as a sinful indulgence. Regardless, the heightened consumption of candy and chocolate for the Easter holiday marks the end of the fast and a time for celebratory indulgence. Had the Dominicans won the debate over chocolate and the fast, perhaps we would not see such excessive candy purchases in the week preceding Easter.

St. Valentine’s Day and Gendered Chocolate

Valentine’s Day is yet another major holiday for the chocolate industry. The holiday on which romantic partners gift heart-shaped boxes of chocolates to one another is also part of a broader context. Chocolate in particular is a common gift on Valentine’s Day because of its historical association with fertility. In indigenous Mesoamerican societies, cacao was considered an aphrodisiac and gifted at weddings for fertility (Coe and Coe 1996). The idea of chocolate as an aphrodisiac carried over into European societies and lingers to this day, though it has no factual basis. As Henderson (2015) and Butler (2018) detail, early chocolate companies began marketing their chocolates with romantic imagery, such as heart-shaped boxes and “kisses.” The association between chocolate and Valentine’s Day is a celebration of heterosexual romance that draws on a history of chocolate as an aphrodisiac.

The gifting of chocolates on Valentine’s Day also draws heavily on gender stereotypes. On Valentine’s Day, men are expected to purchase and gift chocolate to women. In the Russell Stover Valentine’s Day commercial below, the intended audience is men, who are instructed to gift chocolate to women for the holiday.

In chocolate advertising and narratives surrounding Valentine’s Day, women are meant to be seduced by the sinfully indulgent chocolate and-by extension-the men who gifted it to them. The following Ferrero Rocher Valentine’s Day commercial depicts a woman who is seduced by the decadent chocolate and subsequently embraces the romantic partner who gifts these chocolates to her. The message is one of chocolate as a tool in heterosexual relationships that men can use to seduce women.

Gender stereotypes in advertisements for Valentine’s Day chocolates are by no means a recent development. Narratives of male gifting of chocolates and female seduction are prevalent throughout past advertisements as well. The Whitman’s Sampler advertisement below is from 1936. In American society, Valentine’s Day chocolates are associated with a long context of heterosexual romance and the trope of the seduced woman.

1936 Valentines Day ad--Whitman's Chocolates
1936 Whitman’s Sampler Valentine’s Day Advertisement

Halloween and Industrialized Chocolates

Nielson (2015) reports that candy sales in the week preceding Halloween total $787 million, coming in at the second highest week for candy sales in 2014. Halloween in its modern form centers around pre-packaged, standardized candies, but this was not always the case. Kawash (2010) and Nix (2018) provide a brief history of Halloween and candy. In the early 20th century, candy makers were not targeting Halloween as a candy holiday (Kawash 2010). Trick-or-treating first emerged in the 1930’s and 1940’s, and Halloween handouts were not restricted to candy at this time (Kawash 2010). By the 1950’s candy became an inexpensive and convenient Halloween handout, but candy was not yet the exclusive Halloween treat (Kawash 2010). Candy eventually won out as the face of Halloween handouts in the 1970’s because it was industrialized, standardized, pre-packaged, and safe from tampering (Kawash 2010).

These trends between candy and Halloween closely follow developments in the cacao-chocolate industry. In the early 20th century, the big American chocolate manufacturers were just getting started. At the end of the 19th century, Frank Mars, founder of the Mars chocolate company (creator of M&Ms, Snickers, Mars bars, Milky Ways, etc.), was still watching his mother make homemade candies and sweets in the family kitchen (Brenner 2000, 50). For the first decade of the 20th century, Frank Mars was experimenting with small-scale candy distribution and failing repeatedly (Brenner 2000). By the 1920’s Mars had built a profitable chocolate company, but it wasn’t until his son, Forrest Mars, took control of the company in the 1960’s that Mars, Inc. became a giant in the American chocolate industry. Forrest Mars mechanized the factory, vertically integrated production, and industrialized the production and labor at every level (Brenner 2000).

Hershey’s Chocolate Factory

Similar developments were occurring in the Hershey’s chocolate company. In the first decade of the 20th century, Milton Hershey was building his factory town at Hershey, Pennsylvania (D’Antonio 2006). The first Hershey’s Kiss was manufactured in 1907 (D’Antonio 2006). Milton Hershey industrialized his company by vertically and horizontally integrating production. Hershey’s chocolate factory did it all–from building trains to ship sugar from Cuba to housing workers to sourcing milk from local cows (D’Antonio 2006). This consolidation of Hershey’s supply chain took place over the first half of the 20th century. Hershey’s was the well-integrated and undisputed American national chocolate brand until the mid-20th century when competitors like Mars and Reese’s gained power in the national market (D’Antonio 2006; Brenner 2000).

Mars Halloween Candy

By the time Halloween became a major candy holiday in the 1970’s, the American chocolate industry was dominated by Hershey’s and Mars (Martin 2019). Hershey’s and Mars alone make 84.2% of all snack-sized Halloween candy, with another 15.2% contributed by Nestle (Martin 2019). Internationally, the Big 5 chocolate companies (Hershey’s, Mars, Nestle, Kraft [Cadbury], and Ferrero) dominate the market (Martin 2019). Chocolate manufacturing and distribution is concentrated in an oligopoly of companies. The association of Halloween with pre-packaged, bite-sized candies emerged as these large companies developed and industrialized. Halloween as we know it today is a consequence of the industrialization and integration of the American chocolate industry.

Concluding Thoughts

In analyzing the history of chocolate in each of these major candy-selling holidays, I have uncovered legacies of colonialism, religious debate, gender stereotypes, and industrialization in the modern cacao-chocolate industry. To understand why and how the cacao-chocolate industry operates today, it is important to examine this broader social and historical context. Americans’ holiday favorites of hot chocolate, chocolate bunnies, heart-shaped chocolate boxes, and bite-sized chocolates were all brought to us via interesting legacies in the development of the chocolate industry. Next time you enjoy a foamy hot chocolate or Hershey’s kiss, consider the history of cacao and chocolate from its origins in indigenous Mesoamerica to its modern industrialization and mass marketing.

Works Cited

Amyember. 2010. “Hot Chocolate-The Polar Express.” You-Tube Web site. Retrieved May 2, 2019 (https://youtu.be/5Uuw3JKLO1g).

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

Bruenproductions. 2009. “Russell Stover ‘Women Love Chocolate’ TV Commercial.” You-Tube Web site. Retrieved May 2, 2019 (https://youtu.be/RfViV598c1k).

Butler, Stephanie. 2018. “Celebrating Valentine’s Day with a Box of Chocolates.” History. Retrieved on May 2, 2019 (https://www.history.com/news/celebrating-valentines-day-with-a-box-of-chocolates).

By Late Classic, Maya (‘Codex’ style) – Francis Robicsek: The Maya Book of the Dead. The Ceramic Codex, University of Virginia Art Museum (1981), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8309274

Coe, Sophie and Michael Coe. 1996. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames & Hudson.

Cooper, Scott. 2019. “Ferrero Rocher TV Commercial, ‘Valentine’s Day Has Arrived.'” You-Tube Web site. Retrieved May 2, 2019 (https://youtu.be/JAWCM6xjebE).

D’Antonio, Michael D. 2006. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Fahey, Mark. 2016. “Easter Wins the Candy Battle.” CNBC. Retrieved on May 2, 2019 (https://www.cnbc.com/2016/03/24/easter-wins-the-candy-battle.html).

Henderson, Amy. 2015. “How Chocolate and Valentine’s Day Mated for Life.” Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved on May 2, 2019 (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/how-chocolate-and-valentines-day-mated-life-180954228/).

Kawash, Samira. 2010. “How Candy and Halloween Became Best Friends.” The Atlantic. Retrieved on May 2, 2019 (https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2010/10/how-candy-and-halloween-became-best-friends/64895/).

Leissle, Kristy. 2018. Cocoa. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Maria. 2010. “1936 Valentines Day ad–Whitman’s Chocolates.” Flickr. (https://flic.kr/p/7zykxu)

Martin, Carla. 2019. “20190313 The Rise of Big Chocolate and Race for the Global Market.” Presented at AAS 119x, March 13, Harvard University. Retrieved May 3, 2019.

Mike G. 2014. “Old Factory Building.” Flickr. Retrieved May 3, 2019 (
https://www.flickr.com/photos/mishagl/14279170335/ ).

Nielson. 2015. “Special Occasions Bring Sweet Sales.” Retrieved May 2, 2019 (https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2015/special-occasions-bring-sweet-sales.html).

Nix, Elizabeth. 2018. “The Haunted History of Halloween Candy.” History. Retrieved on May 2, 2019 (https://www.history.com/news/the-haunted-history-of-halloween-candy).

Pixel1. 2015. Pixabay. Retrieved on May 3, 2019 (
https://pixabay.com/photos/halloween-candy-chocolates-nuts-1014629/ ).

Prichep, Deena. 2014. “Hanukkah History: Those Chocolate Coins Were Once Real Tips.” National Public Radio. Retrieved on May 2, 2019 (https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/12/12/370368642/hanukkah-history-those-chocolate-coins-were-once-real-tips).

Sampeck, Kathryn E. and Jonathan Thayn. 2017. “Translating Tastes: A Cartography of Chocolate Colonialism.” Pps. 72-99 in Substance and Seduction: Ingested Commodities in Early Modern Mesoamerica, edited by S. Schwartzkopf and K.E. Sampeck. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.

Women and Valentine’s Day: A discussion on why chocolate.

On this year’s Valentine’s day, my best friend and I, being the single women we are, decided to celebrate our the night by buying ourselves chocolate and wine while watching a movie. In all honesty, none of us particularly likes chocolate but it seemed like the appropriate movie snack for Valentine’s day. This type of thinking is not unique to us. It echoes the actions of million other people from all over the world flooding retail shops to buy their significant others flowers and chocolate. It also shows the strong association that our society believes to exist between chocolate and love with or without a heterosexual romance. In other words, while most foods are marketed for their nutritional, aesthetic or dainty value, chocolates have also been sold as symbols of love and sexuality. I would like to explore the various social and historical factors that have led to this phenomenon, and the gendered lens through which Valentine’s day has been tied to Chocolate.

Stores stock so much chocolate in addition to flowers and other love symbols

Firstly, the history of cacao in Mesoamerica is essential to understand the symbolic role chocolate has played in portraying romantic love on occasions such as Valentine’s day. In her essay, on “The Conquests of Chocolate”, Norton notes that “chocolate was ritually consumed at betrothal and wedding ceremonies, and presented to visiting dignitaries” (Norton, 2004). It was presented as an offering to the bride’s father by the groom as a testament of his love for his(the bride’s father) daughter and of respect. While most people do not know this history, chocolate companies have capitalized on this knowledge to lure consumers looking for symbols to express their love to one another.  Norton argues that “the association between chocolate and romantic love continues to hold sway in our collective imagination, as evidenced by the box-of-chocolate’s status as the quintessential Valentine’s Day gift and its mythical status as an aphrodisiac”(Norton, 2004). Chocolate becomes instrumental for those men who would like to show their feelings to their women and, in a similar fashion as the Mesoamericans, chocolate also symbolizes respect between the two lovers.

Secondly, chocolate was historically, and still is to an extent, marketed as a luxury item. It was consumed by those who belonged in the wealthier class. As observed by Norton, chocolate then “played an important role in Mesoamerican society as a drink that denoted status…” (Norton, 2004). This was also true when chocolate first spread through Europe where Spaniards not only “learned to replicate the taste, fragrance, look, and texture of Mesoamerican chocolate,…” but also “internalized the association between chocolate and noble distinction” (Norton, 2004). Another author, Jamal Fahim, in his work on, “Beyond Cravings: Gender and Class Desires in Chocolate Marketing”, claims “chocolate advertising…arouses appetites of a social nature by promising to satisfy viewers’ deep-seated desires for sexual fulfillment and higher class status”(Fahim, 2010). This is why men tend to buy this item to make their women feel special because it is an item that has been historically tied to status and luxury- especially on a day meant to represent passion and love.

Thirdly, and perhaps the assumption we need to address, is that while both men and women have been historically associated with love, women have been, almost exclusively, associated with chocolate cravings. According to Bruinsma et.al, chocolate cravings appear to exist in 40% of women and only 15% of men” (Bruinsma and Taren 1999). These cravings go beyond the socialization of women as being sweeter and therefore liking sweet things. According to Anthony Auger, an assistant professor at UW-Madison, women are more affected by chocolate than men. He references a study conducted that shows the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that regulates food intake, was less active in women when they consumed chocolate which is why they were more likely to eat it more compared to me. This is an interesting take that changes the way we view Valentine’s day and the view that women only like chocolate because they have socialized to love it.

This is a common image in mainstream media, especially blog advertisements of chocolate, portrays women as avid eaters of chocolate.

Yet, we do not have conclusive evidence that this is entirely biological. There are various factors that may have led to this evolutionary phenomenon in which women are more likely to like chocolate than men. One of the many explanations is that women prefer sugary foods when they are lactating- an evolutionary mechanism to protect the baby- and this might have advanced the idea that women generally prefer chocolates (McQuillan, 2014). That being said, this paper does not explore other potential explanations for women’s love of chocolate. However, this paper seeks to highlight that women’s cravings for chocolate are perhaps more than just reactions to sensualized advertisements. They might also stem from evolutionary desires that tie certain foods to the female reproduction process and thus set in motion the reaction to advertisements beckoning women to consume more chocolate.

Ultimately, Valentine’s day remains an important day across the world. It’s meaning transcends the boundaries of language and culture in the face of globalization and brings people from all corners together in celebration of romantic love. Expectedly, capitalism also remains at the forefront with companies devising new ways to sell their products. This essay is part of a large conversation on how the culture of consumerism that rises within capitalist states influences the way we understand and limit ourselves within certain gendered norms. It uses a lens of chocolate to highlight the central issue of capitalist initiatives to exploit women’s love for chocolate by branding it as a symbol of love. Yet, it does not seek to place on a moral judgement on whether this is good or bad but simply raises the question of how even food can be instrumental in shaping gender dynamics.

References

  1. “Why Chocolate For Valentine’s Day? | The Stories | ~GIVEAWAY~ | G.Y’s Food Talk |.” YouTube. N. p., 2019. Web
  2. Martinez, Duran. “Stores Stock Shelves For Valentines Day.” 94.9 WMMQ. N. p., 2019.
  3. Fahim, Jamal. Beyond Cravings: Gender and Class Desires in Chocolate …Occidental College, scholar.oxy.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1002&context=sociology_student.
  4. Bruinsma, Kristen, and Douglas L. Taren. 1999. “Chocolate: Food or drug?” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 10: 1249-1256.
  5. Norton, Marcy. “Conquests of Chocolate.” OAH Magazine of History, vol. 18, no. 3, 2004, pp. 14–17. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/25163677.
  6. “Curiosities: Why Does It Seem Women Like Chocolate So Much More Than Men Do?.” News.wisc.edu. N. p., 2007.
  7. McQuillian, Suzan. “Women and Chocolate:Think You’Re Addicted to Dark, Smooth, and Sweet? You’re Not Alone.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/cravings/201410/women-and-chocolate.
  8. Editorial, SheKnows, and Dustin James. “Eat More Chocolate.” SheKnows. N. p., 2013. Web. 8 Apr. 2019.

Chocolate Traditions: From Enlightenment-era Europe to Today

Early European Chocolate Consumption

It is thought that chocolate was brought to Europe in 1544 when the Kekchi Maya of Guatemala visited Prince Philip in Spain and brought chocolate as one of their many gifts (Coe & Coe, 130-131). Chocolate was an essential element of Mayan culture, and this was represented through their gifting of chocolate to an elite Spaniard. This was just the beginning of chocolate consumption in pre-enlightenment Europe, as the appreciation for sugar and chocolate quickly began to spread through Europe. Furthermore, new methods brought the price of sugar production down, allowing wider audiences to gain access to affordable chocolate. Although chocolate started as a commodity accessible solely to the elite, as sugar gradually became more affordable it increased the significance of chocolate as a symbol and way of celebration for a more widespread audience.

After the initial introduction of chocolate into Europe, it remained a luxury product that was typically enjoyed by the elite class. In The True History of Chocolate, the authors explain “It had been an elite drink among the copper-skinned, befeathered Mesoamericans, and it stayed that way among the white-skinned, perfumed, bewigged, overdressed royalty and nobility of Europe” (Coe & Coe, 125). Before it was available to people of all classes, chocolate was a symbol that celebrated wealth and status. One tradition among the elite in Spain was the consumption of a chocolate drunk “at the lavish midafternoon soirees called agasajos, as was the fashion in Spain” (Presilla, 24-25). Although these soirees were not used specifically to celebrate holidays, they were celebrations nonetheless in which chocolate was traditionally consumed.

es6373A German sculpture from 1744 depicting an elite couple enjoying a chocolate drink together

The sculpture pictured above by Johann Kändler demonstrates the availability and appreciate for chocolate among upper-class European citizens. However, sugar soon became more affordable and its consumption spiked and became widespread. This was what allowed chocolate to become a true product of celebration, as the common individual could consume chocolate and afford it to celebrate special occasions. In his book Sweetness and Power, Mintz explains “After 1850, as the price of sugar dropped sharply, that preference became realized in its consumption. A rarity in 1650, a luxury in 1750, sugar had been transformed into a virtual necessity by 1850” (Mintz, 148). Sweetened goods became widely available in Europe beginning in the 19th century, allowing chocolate to be used as a universal means of celebration. The other key contribution to the widespread availability of chocolate was the process of conching introduced by Rodolphe Lindt in 1879. This revolutionized how chocolate was manufactured and allowed companies to inexpensively produce large quantities of chocolate (Presilla 40-41). Chocolate was no longer only served as a drink, and the packaged, hard chocolates that are now so familiar were produced. Furthermore, producers could package chocolate in ways that allowed them to market the product towards certain holidays. For example, Richard Cadbury created the heart-shaped chocolate box that is now associated with Valentine’s Day in 1861 (Henderson).

Modern Commercialized Chocolate Consumption

godiva_32628_45_vd17_vday_paperheart_14pc_2a_008_r2_final
Pictured: Godiva Valentine’s Day Heart Chocolate Gift Box.

Today, many chocolatiers market their products towards specific holidays and events. Like Cadbury in 1861, many companies still use the classic heart shape box to market their chocolates towards Valentine’s Day. The Godiva website describes the chocolate box pictured above as “Seduction in a box: Our new dessert-inspired chocolates in a beautifully illustrated gift box for Valentine’s Day” (“Valentine’s”). The chocolate confection represents something more than just a treat, as it is also a celebration of love and is symbolic of Valentine’s Day. Likewise, some brands use their packaging to convey that their chocolate is specially created for certain times of the year. For example, Hershey’s Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups have a fall line of chocolate that is decorated with falling leaves to symbolize autumn.

product_pbminis_harvest

The Hershey’s website includes the Fall Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Miniatures as a part of their Halloween and Fall collection.

The Fall Peanut Butter Cups are no different than typical Reese’s products, except for their fall-themed foiled wrapping. Reese’s caters their products to a large assortment of holidays, including special shaped products for Valentine’s Day, Easter, Christmas, and Halloween.

In this Reese’s Halloween commercial from 2013, the advertisement says “Nothing screams Halloween like chocolate and peanut butter”.

Reese’s successfully ties their product and chocolate to celebrations. Although modern holidays are highly commercialized around chocolate, these special holiday-specific creations help to celebrate the holidays and make them extra special. For example, Lindt chocolate makes a Milk Chocolate Santa that is special for the Christmas season. Most individuals in the United States are familiar with chocolate Santas, and eating one may bring on nostalgia associated with the holiday season.

milk-santa-holiday-chocolate-figure_main_450x_477073d2c

Lindt Milk Chocolate Santa

In America, 300 million people consume chocolate annually, which averages to about twelve pounds per person (Martin, “Big Chocolate”). However, Chocolate consumption is at its highest before holidays. Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Halloween are the seasons in which the most chocolate is purchased (Tannenbaum, 2016). Although chocolate is widely available to the average consumer year-around, its purchase and consumption peaks around the holidays because people view chocolate as a means of celebration. chocolate has been used to celebrate special occasions since its discovery, and marketing tactics have increased its connection with celebration significantly. Furthermore, chocolate’s widespread availability at a large spectrum of price points has allowed it to continue its dominance as one of the most popular celebratory indulgences. It is likely that chocolate will continue to be a treat that is enjoyed by all particularly in times of celebration, as its taste brings about nostalgia and happiness.

References

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The true history of chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013. Print.

Fall REESE’S Peanut Butter Cup Miniatures. Digital image. Hershey’s. The Hershey Company, n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.

Henderson, Amy. “How Chocolate and Valentine’s Day Mated for Life.” Smithsonian.com. Smithsonian Institution, 12 Feb. 2015. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.

Kändler, Johann Joachim. Couple Drinking Chocolate. 1744. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Met Fifth Avenue. The Met. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.

Martin, Carla. “The Rise of Big Chocolate and Race for the Global Market”. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, 8 March 2017, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. Lecture.

“Milk Santa 4.4 oz Holiday Chocolate Figure.” Lindt Chocolate. Lindt Chocolate, 2013. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power. New York: Penguin Books, 1986. Print.

Presilla, Maricel E. The new taste of chocolate: a cultural and natural history of cacao with recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2009. Print.

Reeses. “REESE’S Halloween Cackle”. Online Video Clip. YouTube, 27 Sept. 2013. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.

Tannenbaum, Kiri. “8 Facts About Chocolate.” Delish. Hearst Communications, 05 Apr. 2016. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.

“Valentine’s Day Heart Chocolate Gift Box, 14 pc. | GODIVA.” http://www.godiva.com. Godiva, 2017. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.

 

Chocolate and Romance: A Historical Exploration of Chocolate’s Association with Love

Chocolate in modern society is deeply intertwined with ideas of romance, love, and lust. From our celebration of Valentine’s Day, a holiday in which the exchange of chocolate and love notes is foundational, to advertisements from chocolate companies filled with sexual innuendos, we are constantly bombarded with ideas and images depicting chocolate’s association with romance. While many consider chocolate’s relationship with love to be a tactic manufactured by large chocolate companies to increase sales, there has been a long-standing association between chocolate and budding romance that began in pre-Columbian times. Chocolate’s affiliation with love and romance today is both rooted in tradition and influenced by capitalistic endeavors to sell more chocolate.

One of the earliest examples of chocolate’s role in romantic relationships is an ancient Mayan marriage ritual called tac haa. The ritual involved the potential groom’s family serving a chocolate drink to the father of the woman he wanted to marry. The men, including the father of the potential groom, father of the potential bride, and the admirer himself would sit together and discuss the marriage, while women remained removed from the negotiations. The women, such as the potential groom’s mother, would be involved in making the chocolate drink that was served to the guests (Martin, Lecture 2).  Another Mayan marriage ritual involving chocolate took place at the actual wedding ceremony. The Mayan bride and groom would exchange five cacao beans with each other, and wedding guests would drink chocolate together (Coe and Coe 61). Ancient rituals such as tac haa and the exchange of cacao beans do not directly resemble modern traditions surrounding chocolate and romance (i.e. heart-shaped chocolate boxes that are presented to significant others), but both ancient Mayan marriage rituals and heart-shaped chocolate boxes share the common thread of lovers being united through chocolate. It could be that rituals like tac haa serve as prototypes for modern traditions involving chocolate and courtship.

An example of a contemporary courting ritual involving chocolate is depicted in the following advertisement for Edible Arrangements: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1I1FW1ffSc. The advertisement showcases a man setting up a romantic evening on Valentine’s Day. It is clear to any viewer that this is a romantic evening because of the cultural connotations of the objects presented in the ad. For example, the man lights candles, there is a rose and box of chocolates set on the table, and slow music plays in the background. Roses, candles, and chocolate are all objects American society associates with romance, specifically with courting women. As the advertisement progresses, the heart-shaped box of chocolates begins to speak, saying that he is the “ultimate wing-man,” reiterating the idea of chocolate being used to woo women in our society. The object of the advertisement is to demonstrate how Edible Arrangements is superior to the box of chocolates in wooing the woman. However, including the box of chocolates as something to compete with further emphasizes the notion of offering chocolate as an established method of courtship in our society.

Presenting chocolate to a significant other is not only used as a method of courtship in modern society, but has evolved into becoming fundamentally associated with the definition of “romantic” altogether. For example, AskMen, a popular website that offers life advice to men, contains an article entitled “9 Simple Romantic Ideas for Every Man” linked here http://www.askmen.com/dating/heidi_60/77b_dating_girl.html.  One of the romantic ideas listed is to “Be More Thoughtful,” and a suggestion on how to do so is to “leave [your significant other] a chocolate ‘kiss’ on her pillow before bedtime.” It is apparent that giving your partner chocolate should be viewed as a thoughtful gesture, and by doing so one can be described as “romantic.” Thousands of men visit AskMen for daily advice and likely follow it, indicating how chocolate has become an extremely conventional method of showcasing a man’s thoughtfulness and affection for a woman. Similarly, the way chocolate is presented in this article suggests that women too have been conditioned to feel loved and appreciated when their partner gives them chocolate.

Chocolate’s affiliation with romance extends further than simple courtship and gift-giving. In fact, people have long used chocolate as an aphrodisiac, or in combination with believed aphrodisiacs, to heighten sexual desire in themselves and in others.  A chocolate beverage called Atextli consumed by the Aztecs was believed to be healthy due to its supposed aphrodisiac qualities (Elferink 27). Chocolate beverages have also been documented as being used in love potions to seduce and control men. Margarita Orellana writes, “Because of its dark color and grainy texture, chocolate provided an ideal cover for items associated with sexual witchcraft. These included various powders and herbs, as well as female body parts and fluids, which women then mixed into a chocolate beverage and fed to men to control their sexuality” (81). Whether chocolate truly possesses aphrodisiac qualities or not, modern chocolate companies often use chocolate’s historical association with sexuality as the basis of their marketing. Linked here is an example of a typical chocolate advertisement from Lindt, a company known for their chocolate truffles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgGz2oNk0Pg. Although not overt, once can see how Lindt is sexualizing chocolate in this advertisement. Terms like “irresistible,” “passion,” and “luscious” have carnal connotations, and the image of the woman removing her scarf suggests that the idea of consuming chocolate has heightened her sexual desires.

The affiliation between chocolate and romance, beginning with Aztec and Mayan traditions, perseveres in modern times. Something else that has remained in tact is the idea of men using chocolate to court women, and women having sexualized responses to chocolate. There seems to be a stark difference between men and women’s interactions with chocolate that have become engrained into contemporary society.

Works Cited:

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

De Orellana, Margarita, et al. “Chocolate III: RITUAL, ART AND MEMORY.” Artes De México, no. 110, 2013, pp. 72–96., http://www.jstor.org/stable/24318995.

“Edible Arrangements Advertisement.” YouTube, uploaded by MBR616, http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=b1I1FW1ffSc. Accessed 10 Mar. 2017.

“Lindt Chocolate Commercial.” YouTube, uploaded by LindtChocolateUSA, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgGz2oNk0Pg. Accessed 10 Mar. 2017.

Jan G. R. Elferink. “Aphrodisiac Use in Pre-Columbian Aztec and Inca Cultures.” Journal of the History of Sexuality, vol. 9, no. 1/2, 2000, pp. 25–36., http://www.jstor.org/stable/3704630.

Martin, Carla D. “Mesoamerica and ‘The Food of the Gods’.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard College: Cambridge, MA. 1 Feb. 2017. Class Lecture.

“9 Simple Romantic Ideas for Every Man.” AskMen, http://www.askmen.com/dating/heidi_60/ 77b_dating_girl.html. Accessed 10 Mar. 2017.

 

 

 


 

 

Valentine’s Day Chocolate as a Commentary on Society

The History of Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day has not always been associated with love, red hearts, bouquets of roses and a box of chocolates. In fact, the first celebrations of Valentine’s day, which date all the way back to Roman times, were not linked to romance at all (Butler). The initial appearance of gift-exchange occurred during the Medieval Period, when knights would lavish roses upon maidens to express their “courtly love” (Butler). This gift giving practice continued to grow in the following centuries (Henderson). However, the exchange of chocolate and candies was not yet in practice since sugar was still regarded as a highly precious commodity (Butler, Henderson). By the Victorian Era, commercialization of the holiday had begun (Henderson), and the practice of exchanging elaborate and highly decorated gifts had become routine (Butler) .

Richard Cadbury and the Heart-Shaped Box

Richard Cadbury was one of the first entrepreneurs to fully take advantage of the love-crazed commercialized frenzy (Butler). Through industrialization and technological advancements, Cadbury had discovered a cheaper way to produce what was referred to as “eating chocolate” (Butler). Cadbury, being the commercial genius that he was, began to design elaborate heart-shaped boxes filled with chocolates to distribute during Valentine’s Day (Henderson). The boxes were extremely successful that even to this day, Victorian Era Cadbury boxes, such as the one featured below, still exist, are wildly popular, and “are treasured family heirlooms and valuable items prized by collectors” (Butler).

Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 9.31.45 PM
Wilson, Laurnie

Valentine’s Day is compelling in the ways it reflects changes in Western society regarding the introduction of exchanging sugar and chocolates and a movement towards industrialization and commercialization. Currently, however, it is also most indicative of the ways in which society hasn’t changed, according to the continued gender-biased and heteronormative nature of the holiday.

Advertisements Across Time

Looking among different chocolate advertisements celebrating Valentine’s Day, common themes emerge based on assumed gender roles and heteronormativity that remain constant throughout time and across companies.

Cadbury

Since Cadbury is the founder of the heart-shaped box of chocolates, I thought it only appropriate to look at the content of their advertisements over time.

$_35
Cadbury Vintage Style Ad

This vintage Cadbury advertisement really speaks to the roots of heteronormativity associated with Valentine’s Day. The ad is centered around the simple fact that she loves him, he loves her. The assumptions of heteronormativity are all too clear.

This Cadbury Valentine’s Day Commercial  from 2017 shares many of the same sentiments as the vintage ad. He loves her. She loves him. And they both love Cadbury chocolate.  Although only hands are featured in this commercial, the hands are clearly gender specific. The woman’s hand is feminine, with pink painted nails and of course, hers is the hand that is receiving the chocolate. While there is some playful teasing and banter throughout the commercial, at the very end it is made clear that it is the man who is giving the chocolates by his hand signing the card with a simple “be mine”.

Whitman’s

Cadbury, however, is not the only company that has perpetuated gender stereotypes and promoted heteronormativity. The comparison between these two ads from 1943 and 2013 shows that while some aspects of their marketing technique have been updated, fundamental concepts surrounding gender roles and heteronormativity remain the same.

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Block, Tara

 

This Whitman’s ad is from 1943 and demonstrates the evident gender biases of that time. The ad implies that all women care very much about being recognized on Valentine’s Day and that men are expected to actually forget Valentine’s Day because they care so little about this particular holiday and receiving a gift. There is also the reoccurring theme that a man is able to win over a woman’s affections by giving her chocolate. In my opinion, this concept somewhat objectifies a woman and implies that her love may be bought with a simple box of chocolates.

This 2013 Whitman’s Valentine’s Day Commercial does not really show many differences from the printed ad from the 1940s. The language may be updated and the message appeals to a more modern man, who is interested in sports (football), but in the end, the message remains relatively the same that, “men, don’t be the forgetful, careless tough guys that you usually are; go out and buy your caring, sensitive ladies some chocolate… that’s all they truly want on Valentines Day”. Not only is this an extremely gender-biased message, it is also a message of heteronormativity. The ad directly addresses men and directs them to buy something for their special woman.

Many other chocolate brands, including Godiva and Ferrara Rocher, have released recent Valentine’s Day ads that continue to reveal how gender bias and heteronormativity are still very much ingrained into American society.

There are some advertisements, like this Dove commercial, that actually change up the narrative a little bit. However, while it does not subscribe to heteronormativity, it also does not actively combat it. Furthermore, while the ad dispenses of some of the assumed gender roles, such as the man always being the giver of chocolate, it still plays into others. It was particularly notable to me that the recipients of the chocolate were all still women. While commercials like this do perhaps show more progress, I do not believe they are up to standards with the claim to dispense of gender stereotypes and support LGBTQ communities. I struggled to find advertisements that included gay couples or advertisements in which a female romantically and earnestly gave a box of chocolates to a man, who is ready to decadently indulge. I really think that this lack of representation on Valentine’s Day may speak to a larger problem that we, as a society, may not be as progressive as we think we are.

Realities of Valentine’s Day Chocolate Exchange

These issues of perpetuated gender stereotypes and heteronormativity are not just depicted in the advertisements we see, but are also being played out in real life through the Valentine’s Day chocolate exchange. In 2006, an article entitled “pulse point’ revealed that “while 75 percent of chocolate purchases are made by women all year long, during the days and minutes before Valentine’s Day, 75 percent of the chocolate purchases are made by men. Over $ I billion of chocolate is purchased for Valentine’s Day” (p. 9). Furthermore, a study conducted by Otnes, Cele, Ruth and Milbourne revealed that men are not necessarily buying these chocolates because they want to. Many men expressed an intense pressure to buy chocolates for their significant other and actually stated that on average, they experience much more pleasure from gift-receiving than gift giving. The practices of modern day chocolate exchange during Valentine’s Day still reinforce gender roles that men must be the givers and women must be the receivers and gender bias that women care much more about the gift giving than men. Furthermore Otnes, Cele Ruth and Milbourne discuss the novelty of their study, in that it looks at the opinions and attitudes of men on Valentine’s Day rather than women, who historically and stereotypically claim the holiday; however, I could find no study on LGBTQ groups and their opinions and attitudes towards the holiday. Throughout this exploration, it has become very evident to me that the LGBTQ groups are vastly underrepresented during this holiday. While it is concerning that Valentine’s Day chocolate exchange does not seem to represent the progressive and open-minded society we feel we are a part of, perhaps the holiday is actually an indication that our society as a whole is not as updated and progressive as we ought to be.

 

Works Cited

Butler, Stephanie. “Celebrating Valentine’s Day With a Box of Chocolates.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 08 Feb. 2013. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.

Henderson, Amy. “How Chocolate and Valentine’s Day Mated for Life.” Smithsonian.com. Smithsonian Institution, 12 Feb. 2015. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.

Food and, Retail E. “FEATURE/Valentine’s Day – Celebrating America’s Love Affair with Chocolate More than 35 Million Heart-Shaped Boxes Will be Sold.” Business Wire, Jan 26, 2001, pp. 1, Business Premium Collection, http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/446497881?accountid=11311.

Otnes, Cele, Julie A. Ruth, and Constance C. Milbourne. “The pleasure and pain of being close: men’s mixed feelings about participation in Valentine’s Day gift exchange.” NA-Advances in Consumer Research Volume 21 (1994).

“Pulse Points.” Journal of Property Management, vol. 71, no. 1, jan/feb2006, p. 9. EBSCOhost, ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=19533678&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Images Cited

Block, Tara. “Valentine’s Day.” POPSUGAR Love & Sex. N.p., 07 Apr. 2013. Web. 10 Mar. 2017. www.popsugar.com/love/photo-gallery/21966615/image/21966645/Valentine-Day

“Cadburys Chocolate Vintage Style A4 Poster Print Retro Advert VALENTINES DAY.” EBay. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2017. http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Cadburys-Chocolate-Vintage-Style-A4-Poster-Print-Retro-Advert-VALENTINES-DAY-/232259253864.

Wilson, Laurie. “Candy Favorites – Wholesale Candy & Bulk Candy Suppliers Since 1927.” Richard Cadbury & the Heart-Shaped Chocolate Box – Candy Favorites. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2017. www.candyfavorites.com/heart-shaped-chocolate-box-valentines-day

Chocolate the Aphrodisiac and its Love Affair with Valentine’s Day

Chocolate has held an allure as an aphrodisiac for about as long as modern conceptions of chocolate have existed; The True History of Chocolate states that people have believed chocolate is an aphrodisiac since at least the European conquest of Mexico (Coe and Coe 29). Chocolate has a reputation as a sensual, even sinful, food, and not only is it supposed to actually increase sexual potency and desire when consumed, but its reputation has preceded it so that simply the idea of eating chocolate has become erotic. Over time, chocolate’s reputation as an aphrodisiac and its conflation with romance has resulted in the necessity of the chocolate actually being consumed for this effect to be negated; now, one only needs to give or receive chocolate in order to inspire romantic and sensual feelings. Thus is the case in our celebrations and gift-giving traditions of Valentine’s Day. But Valentine’s Day and chocolate were not always synonymous. How did this relatively new holiday and this revered food become so impossibly intertwined?

Chocolate, of course, has its roots in Mesoamerica, where it was it was considered to be a valuable food both in terms of its value as a currency and its cultural value; it was an important part of social gatherings, religious practices and was considered ‘the food of the gods’ (Martin) (“Chocolate and Holidays- a Long History”). Chocolate had an almost mystical reputation, and was believed to have many properties, including curing ailments and having an effect as an aphrodisiac. A recipe for chocolate that was supposedly known for its aphrodisiacal properties survives to us from Francisco Hernández; it contains several other ingredients that were popular flavorings for chocolate amongst the Aztecs, including vanilla (Coe and Coe 87-88, 93). Together, these ingredients made for an aphrodisiacal chocolate, according to Hernández; however, there is “not a hint that the Aztecs considered it to be an erotic stimulant” (Coe and Coe 93). The idea that chocolate was an aphrodisiac would capture the European mind. As Coe & Coe write, “the probably baseless claim that chocolate has aphrodisiac properties was one that was to arise again and again in Europe, and obviously also appeals to modern authors” (Coe and Coe 87).

In Europe, by the 1600s, chocolate had become an increasingly popular food: “By the early 1600s, the vogue for chocolate had swept across Europe. In London, chocolate houses began to rival coffee houses as social gathering spots. One shop opened on Gracechurch Street in 1657 advertising chocolate as “a West Indian drink (which) cures and preserves the body of many diseases.” In France, Madame de Sevigne wrote about enormous chocolate consumption throughout the court at Versailles in 1671; Louis IV drank it daily and Madame du Barry was said to use chocolate mixed with amber to stimulate her lovers” (Henderson). The use of chocolate to stimulate sexual appetite had seized ahold of the European imagination, and it was only a matter of time before aphrodisiacal chocolate would find its perfect mate in the romantic holiday, Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day was not always a popular holiday, but following Chaucer’s mention of the romantic holiday in his poem Parlement of Foules, the holiday’s popularity began to rise as a way and day to celebrate romantic love and that special someone in your life (Henderson).The tradition of gift-giving and romantic gestures on Valentine’s Day was quickly cemented, but the tradition of giving candy (and later chocolate) was slower on the uptake, as “sugar was still a precious commodity in Europe” (Henderson). However, eventually it was “no longer considered a sign of elevated rank to stuff one’s guests with sugar” and writing in and molding sugar was a special treat reserved for occasions such as weddings, birthdays, Christmas, and, yes, Valentine’s Day (Mintz 94).

It wasn’t until sugar and chocolate had been more economized and popularized that

valentine-box-by-robin-sweet
Cadbury’s ingenious marketing of beautiful boxes of chocolate that could be repurposed as mementos firmly entrenched chocolate in the celebration of Valentine’s Day.

the ultimate marriage would happen on Valentine’s Day. Richard Cadbury, attempting to expand the reaches of chocolate into the hands of more people and on more occasions, came up with the brilliant idea of ‘eating chocolates’, which he packaged in beautiful boxes that he had designed himself (Henderson). In 1861, he used his marketing genius to marry chocolate and Valentine’s Day forever: “Cadbury began putting the Cupids and rosebuds on heart-shaped boxes in 1861: even when the chocolates had been eaten, people could use the beautiful boxes to save such mementos as love letters” (Henderson). The association between chocolate and Valentine’s Day has been everlasting since Cadbury’s special Valentine’s boxes emerged.

Fascination with chocolate and the romantic and erotic has persisted into the modern era.

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Russell Stover’s Secret Lace Heart is easily accessible at just $12.99 and marketed as “sultry” and “tantalizing.” Its easy accessibility further entrenches chocolate in the celebration of Valentine’s Day, and its marketing enhances the idea that chocolate is an aphrodisiac.

Valentine’s Day officially became commercialized in the early 1900’s when chocolate itself became commercialized and mass-produced; Hershey began mass-producing chocolate in 1907, and Russell Stover quickly followed them by selling their Valentine’s chocolates in department stores (Henderson). According to Smithsonian, one of Russell Stover’s biggest sellers is “the ‘Secret Lace Heart,’ a chocolate box covered in satin and black lace. The so-called ‘lingerie box’ is affordable and easily-accessible stocked on store shelves for easy grab-and-go sales” (Henderson).

Modern science has also perpetuated the idea that chocolate is an aphrodisiac. According to Coe and Coe, the most extensive medical study of chocolate is by a French doctor, Hervé Robert, who published a book in 1990 called Les vertus therapeutiques du chocolat. He finds that the caffeine, theobromine, serotonin, and phenylethylamine that chocolate contains make it a tonic, and an antidepressive and antistress agent, enhancing pleasurable activities, including making love” (Coe and Coe 29). The people of the modern age take this science as a confirmation that chocolate is an aphrodisiac, even going so far, in my personal observations, as to use these scientific findings as an excuse to eat chocolate.

crunchie
This is a very blatant example of the use of the suggestivity of chocolate in advertising. It is supposed to excite the woman- as this woman is very happy- and suggest to the man that if the woman eats this chocolate, she will also want him.

Lastly, the association between chocolate and romantic or erotic love has dominated culture in advertisements and television/film. A gift of chocolate from a man to a woman on screen is at once suggestive and also romantic. Advertisements make strategic use of women seductively eaten chocolate to both excite the men and tantalize women with the feeling of sexual bliss that eating chocolate will supposedly make them feel. These advertisements are even more blatant on Valentine’s Day—when the association between chocolate and romantic and erotic love is at its strongest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

Butler, Stephanie. “Celebrating Valentine’s Day With a Box of Chocolates.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 08 Feb. 2013. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.
“Chocolate and Holidays- a Long History.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 29 Mar. 2002. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.
Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013. Print.
Henderson, Amy. “How Chocolate and Valentine’s Day Mated for Life.” Smithsonian.com. Smithsonian Institution, 12 Feb. 2015. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.
Martin, Carla. “Lectures 1-2.” Chocolate, Culture and the Politics of Food. Cambridge, MA. Lecture.
Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin, 1985. Print.

Native Culture in Relation to Our Perception of Chocolate

Our understanding of chocolate and the context in which it is consumed has evolved since chocolate was first “founded or created” by the Olmecs. The Mayans and Aztecs had specific customs and beliefs regarding cacao and its consumption in society. These practices have long since been lost in America’s contemporary relationship with chocolate. In this short essay, I will contrast the Mayan and Aztec traditions from our current traditions regarding chocolate; and further, argue that the ritual and religious aspect of cacao has evolved in today’s popular society.

Cacao originated in the north-west of South America and thus this area is the cultural center for cacao. Although the Aztecs and Mayans differed slightly in their consumption habits and practices, the cultural significance of cacao still held the same value in their respective societies. Cacao carried both social and religious prestige among the indigenous people. Not only was it called “the food of the gods”, but it was also prized enough to be used as currency.

cacaogod
Maya Cacao God. Retrieved from Cornell University.

The photo shown to the right depicts the cacao god. Gods were often associated with trees, linking the cacao trees and gods together. Vessels and bowls that once held cacao have been preserved and show us hieroglyphs representing both Gods and cacao; further exhibiting the religious significance of chocolate in their society (Coe 43). Cacao was also revered for its magical and god-like powers. Chocolate was linked to concepts of strength and power; for example “the warriors, the backbone of the Aztec state, were another group permitted chocolate. Cacao, in fact, was a regular part of military rations” (Coe 98). Cacao was an integral part of the Aztec and Mayan religious practices. In rituals the cacao pod was used to symbolize the human heart torn out for sacrifice (Coe 103). However, cacao’s power in Mayan and Aztec society extended beyond that of religion and military. Cacao played a significant role in banquets, baptisms, weddings, and burials. Cacao was also integrated in marriage rituals. For example, it was normal for the father of the potential bride to invite the father of the boy to discuss the marriage proposal over a chocolate beverage. Additionally, cacao was often given as a dowry. These practices show what a compelling force chocolate was to the Aztecs and Mayans.

While chocolate still has a strong presence today, it does not carry the same significance to us as it did to Aztecs and Mayans; yet, I would argue that we still have a ritualistic connection to chocolate. The industrialization of the food industry, while benefiting the capitalist side of the chocolate industry, took away the religious and traditional aspect of chocolate. With the invention of preserving, mechanization, retailing, and transporting, chocolate and other food stuffs become readily available and easily accessible to the public at large. Not only did industrialization make foodstuff less perishable but it also made it easier to disperse; “critical to the growth of the overseas trade was the development of large cargo ships capable of transporting  the raw materials to the metropolitan country in exchange  for the mass export of manufactured goods” (Goody 82).

chocolate-consumption1

The graph depicted on the left is from 2009 and shows the consumption of chocolate each year, consumed per person in pounds. The industrialization, mass production, and exportation of chocolate has led to a completely different public sentiment towards chocolate. In comparison to during the Aztec and Mayan era, because of its affordability, chocolate has become less of a luxury item. The invention of technology like the conch, the five roller refiner, and the hydraulic press have made chocolate manufacturing more efficient. The Mars company was famous for its efficiency in chocolate production. They employed engineers to improve the efficiency of their machines and “the result of this effort was the most efficient candy-making operation in the business” (Brenner 83). Mars additionally, created the Snickers bar that was only coated in chocolate, reducing its price and increasing its affordability; thereby, making their chocolate bars even more competitive in the free market. But despite chocolate lacking its previous characteristic as a luxury item, it still retains the quality of being an indulgent good. Thus, one could argue that the ritualistic aspect of chocolate is its mass and quite often consumption. Further, chocolate still carries significance on certain religious holidays.

For example, chocolate is central in the victorian creation of Valentine’s day. Chocolate has become an essential consumerist part of the festivities.

Starbucks Valentine’s Day Commercial

The video featured above was Starbuck’s 2017 Valentine’s day commercial, starring: chocolate. Generally the celebration of Valentine’s day is heteronormative as well as consumerist. This Valentine’s day commercial doesn’t play off of the normal gender binary, but, it does clearly link chocolate to the celebration. Chocolate is still an important part of religious holidays like Christmas and Easter. Yet, while its place in the celebrations is solidified, its religious significance is not quite as apparent as it was under the Aztecs and Mayans.

Thus, while chocolate is no longer the star of athletics, marriages, weddings, baptisms, burials, or rituals, its presence is still prominent in many of our religious celebrations. The mass distribution and consumption of chocolate has taken away from its spiritual and traditional uses in society. Yet, this same commercialism and mass distribution has allowed chocolate to remain a constant power and presence in today’s society.

References

Brenner, Joël Glenn. The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars.
       New York: Broadway, 2000. Print.
Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and              Hudson, 2013. Print.
Counihan, Carole, and Penny Van Esterik. Food and Culture: A Reader. New York: Routledge,         2013. Print.

Chocolate’s Expansion Beyond Europe

Despite chocolate’s wide availability in Mayan culture, the European chocolate experience was much like that of the Aztecs: chocolate was mostly a drink restricted to the elite. Eventually, however, chocolate would spread to every strata of society and even to countries that previously rejected the chocolate tradition. How did chocolate win over the economies and hearts of cultures worldwide? Chocolate’s expansion beyond Europe was made possible by two factors–mechanization and culturally-relevant marketing strategies.

In the Baroque era, chocolate failed to become a popular drink outside of Europe (Clarence-Smith). Even inside Europe, chocolate had to fight for attention with tea and coffee, two other foods that were held in higher esteem. In fact, while chocolate was associated with aristocratic excess, tea and coffee were seen as drinks that represented “sobriety, serious purpose, trustworthiness, and respectability” (Clarence-Smith). Art depicting chocolate during this era reflects how chocolate was seen as part of a ritual reserved for higher-class persons, especially women (see media below). However, in areas under Spanish influence (such as the Phillipines), chocolate enjoyed a strong favoritism among the population. Yet chocolate would fail to take root as a popular food in the rest of Asia, perhaps due to the overwhelming Confucian tea tradition prevalent in East Asia.

Woman pouring chocolate from a 18th-century painting. Wikimedia Commons license.

But the mid-1800’s would see the beginnings of a revolution that would allow chocolate to be made cheaper, to be molded into unique forms, and expand beyond the higher and middle classes. The invention of conching, powdered forms of cocoa, and chocolate in bar form allowed chocolate to be made more rapidly and at a price point that was friendlier to the lower classes. At the same time, chocolate began being revered as a source of protein. “British workman cocoa houses were” being built to cater to the common laborer (Clarence-Smith) and militaries began providing chocolate bars as part of soldiers’ rations. As a result of falling prices and more diversification of chocolate forms, lower classes could afford more of the substance in chocolate’s various incarnations. Advances in transportation and a move towards closed storefronts allowed chocolate to travel intact across countries and into the hands of consumers (Goody).

Despite the lower prices for chocolate and its increasing ubiquity thanks to mechanization, markets in East Asia remained closed to chocolate companies until well into the 20th century. By this time, America was thoroughly hooked on chocolate, with even the National Confectioners’ Association running ads encouraging the daily partaking of chocolate (Martin). Mars was the first to attempt to bring this type of campaign to East Asia. Mars’ executives knew that China held an untapped chocolate market, and they decided to make a splash by using big marketing tactics. Mars’ first move was establishing a representative office in Beijing during the Asian games and sponsoring sports—which led to M&M’s becoming the official snack food of the 1990 Games.

Other chocolate companies were also eager to move into China and East Asia, and they incorporated several clever marketing strategies to fuel Asian consumers’ taste for chocolate. In the 1950’s confectioners hit upon a marketing nerve that resonated with Japanese consumers: they marketed Valentine’s Day as a chance for women to show affection towards men. For a woman to reveal her feelings towards a man was considered radical in Japanese culture at that time. Confectioners cleverly created a day where it was “acceptable” for women to express their feelings (Just Hungry). This type of marketing tapped into cultural traditions and expectations, showcasing how confectioners adapted to the culture of East Asian countries in order to make sales. Confectioners also used unique marketing strategies such as sponsoring an artist who went viral with his design for a heart-shaped carriage (Martin). By tapping into cultural mindsets and encouraging grassroots expansion, chocolatiers were able to edge into the Asian market.

Today, chocolate is finally hitting the sweet spot in Asia. Confectioners have expanded on the practice of “obligation” gift-giving in certain cultures and heavily marketed occasions where chocolate gifts are an obligatory treat. For instance, on Valentine’s Day, women in Japan are expected to give “giri chocolate” to males to whom they have no romantic feelings whatsoever, such as their bosses or mentors (Just Hungry). Marketers have gone even further and created a “White Day” where men could return the favor and gift women with chocolates and candy.

Here is a photo of giri choco, which is Japanese for “obligation chocolate”—the kind of chocolate women must give to men whom they have no romantic interest in. Flickr attribution/non-commercial license.

Far from being an elite food today, chocolate has crossed from the drawing rooms of Spanish and French nobility and emerged as a global product. Its entrance into East Asia was facilitated by 19th century advances in production and enabled through the use of marketing tactics that created a cultural fever for the sweet treat.


Sources:

Clarence-Smith, William Gervase. Cocoa and Chocolate, 1765-1914. 2000. Print.

Goody, Jack. “Industrial Food: Towards the Development of a World Cuisine.” 2013 (1982). Print.

Just Hungry. “The Japanese Valentine’s Day tradition of compartmentalized chocolate giving.” 8 Feb. 2016. http://justhungry.com/uniquely-japanese-valentines-day-tradition-compartmentalized-chocolate-giving. Online.

Martin, Carla. “Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food Lecture Slides 2016.” 2016. Online.