Tag Archives: Wednesday 5-6

Askinosie Chocolate: A Leader in High Quality Chocolate and Sustainable Business

Chocolate, once a luxury consumed only by the elite, has become an every day good for those of us fortunate enough to live in the better-developed parts of the world. It is easy to walk into the nearest convenience store and find a pretty large selection of different kinds of chocolate (albeit produced by the same few major corporations). But among all of the flashy chocolate wrappers advertising added delights like caramel and nougat, there is very little to inform the consumer about where their chocolate is coming from, how it was made, and what is actually in it. As Kristy Leissle explains, in the 19th century, when it was predominantly artisans making chocolate, the origin of cacao beans was clearly advertised as a measure of quality, but in the 20th century, rising industrial chocolate makers were more interested in selling particular candy bars, and “and thoroughly effaced any links with the sweaty, tropical farms whence their primary ingredient came” [1]. In fact, most chocolate consumers today are entirely unaware of the processes through which a chocolate bar is made and the sheer amount of labor that goes into turning cacao into chocolate. And in today’s modern society when people balk at the idea of their clothes being made in a sweatshop in Asia, people should also be questioning whether or not their food has been ethically produced—this is true for chocolate in particular not only because chocolate is still technically considered a luxury item, or a treat, but also because of the extensive history of slave labor, exploitation, and racist advertising within the chocolate industry.

Awareness is the key here—what kinds of practices are consumers condoning when they buy certain brands of chocolate? And if the answer makes them uncomfortable, what can they do about it? For most consumers, abandoning the consumption of chocolate is out of the question, but luckily, there are more and more chocolate companies out there that provide the amount of transparency that can help consumers make the right decisions. Increasingly more chocolate producers are becoming bean-to-bar chocolate companies, meaning that they oversee the production of the chocolate from the cacao bean to the finished product. These companies are often employed in direct trade relationships with the farmers that they get their cacao from and even more companies have Fair Trade and Organic certifications. Each of these different types of farmer-producer-consumer relationships has its pros and cons when it comes to addressing the issues that prevail in the chocolate industry, but at the end of the day a certification is just a piece of paper and a claim of direct trade could be a marketing ploy—what’s really important is how these companies are presenting themselves and their chocolate, whose best interests they truly have in mind, and how transparent they are with their practices and their intentions. In 2005, the World Summit on Social Development identified three goals for sustainable development that have come to be known as the “three pillars of sustainability”: social development, economic development, and environmental protection [2]. I believe that these goals can and should be directly applied to the business model of an ethically run chocolate company. Chocolate’s history is not without its fair share of social implications, so, as contemporary consumers of chocolate, it is our responsibility hold chocolate companies accountable for their actions and to ensure that our money is going towards supporting companies that believe in not only producing a high quality product, but also in maintaining a sustainable and healthy relationship with that product.

One company that I feel is leading the way as a shining example for other bean-to-bar chocolate companies is Askinosie Chocolate. A criminal defense attorney for twenty years, Shawn Askinosie became a chocolate maker in 2007. He learned all he could about chocolate-making and cacao and soon found himself in the Amazon studying how the post-harvest techniques of cacao farmers influenced the finished chocolate’s flavor. But Askinosie was interested not only to crafting high quality chocolate, but also to weaving social responsibility into everything that the company does; he confidently says now: “We’re dedicated not just to making the best quality chocolate you can buy, but to making it in such a way that the more you learn about it, the better you feel about it” [3]. The company’s mission statement rings along the same lines: “We at Askinosie Chocolate exist to craft exceptional chocolate while serving our farmers, our 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 stands out to me as a bean-to-bar chocolate company because they hold doing as much good as they can in the world just as importantly as crafting high quality chocolate. They are very aware of the impact that they, as a chocolate company, can have on the world and are determined to use that power responsibly, giving back to the communities that provide them with their product and educating the rest of the world about ethical business practices. In this essay, I will analyze how Askinosie Chocolate sells and presents itself and its ideals, how it fulfills the criteria for transparency in its processes, and how it goes above and beyond in developing sustainable practices. In doing so, I plan to show why I believe that Askinosie Chocolate is a great part of the solution to the problems that plague the chocolate-cacao supply chain.

Before I move any further, I would like to make it clear that my impression of the Askinosie Chocolate company and how they present themselves comes directly from their website at https://askinosie.com/. The popularity of the Askinosie Chocolate company is part of a rising focus on what is referred to as ethical eating—Julie Guthman explains that, in this view, consumption practices are driven by a conscious reflexivity, where customers pay attention to how food is made and then reflects upon the consequences of that knowledge when making future food-related decisions [4]. But because ethical eating is the latest trend, many companies that boast ethical practices are actually more focused on other things, advertising the luxuriousness of their chocolate instead, for example. As such, Askinosie Chocolate takes great care to portray that social, economic, and environmental responsibility are an integral part of their company. The Askinosie Chocolate website is simply, but elegantly designed—following an earthy-toned color scheme, the three centrally positioned links at the top are labeled “shop” (their online store), “learn” (a plethora of information about their company), and “wholesale” (for retailers interested in selling their products and being part of the team). The banner that takes up the top portion of their website shuffles between commendations on their products and images of the several sources that they get their cacao beans from. Already, it is clear to see that the image that they’re selling is that their business (chocolate-making) and their mission (doing good in the world) go hand-in-hand.

A screenshot of what a visitor to Askinosie Chocolate’s main website would first see on the home page.

Askinosie Chocolate sells a large variety of chocolate-related products: chocolate bars, cocoa powder, chocolate nibs, chocolate spread, chocolate beverages, the vast majority of their ingredients are produced at their own factory from the same cacao beans that the chocolate is made from—they even make their own cocoa butter to add to their chocolate [5]! They sell single-origin chocolate bars from four different locations around the world: the Philippines, Honduras, Ecuador, and Tanzania. Each of these single-origin bars come simply packaged in paper with a piece of string tied at the top. On the paper wrapping, the name of the origin is printed colorfully at the top; below that, a picture of what is presumed to be the cacao farmer that the company works with at that origin location, a description of the chocolate content, and the Askinosie logo. Although I believe that the name of the cacao farmer should be clearly indicated on the front of the packaging with the picture, I also understand that there may be privacy or security reasons that it is not included. Despite this, Askinosie Chocolate does a wonderful job of modestly and honestly packaging their chocolate bars—each of the farmers are presented in as neutral a light as possible, with their skin tones even being edited to match to color of the paper packaging. Their presentation of the cacao farmers involved with their company can be compared to that of the Divine Chocolate company: Although Divine Chocolate has been praised for “refashioning” their cacao farmers to be “Cosmopolitan,” I feel that their advertisements miss the mark [6]. Their portrayal of the female cacao farmers as “glamorous” with tacky labels like “Equality Treat” almost makes it seem like the women are the products, especially considering the common association of chocolate with blackness. The decision of Askinosie Chocolate to include a humble image of their cacao farmers right on their chocolate bar packaging reflects the intimate relationships that they have forged with those farmers—they are more than business partners, they are their friends as well.

A side-by-side comparison of Divine Chocolate’s representation of their cacao farmers (left) versus Askinosie Chocolate’s representation of their cacao farmers (right).

In an industry that has always faced controversy when it comes to ethical concerns in business practices, i.e., slave and child labor and exploitation, it is important for all chocolate companies to have a certain amount of transparency in what they do, especially if they are advertising themselves as being on the right side of ethics. With chocolate companies in particular, transparency is important in several areas—where their beans are coming from, who is growing the cacao and how are they being treated, who is making the chocolate and where that is happening, where the rest of the ingredients are coming from—but it ultimately boils down to (1) the nature of the relationship between the farmer, the producer, and the buyer and (2) how the chocolate is being presented and why that is the case. With one look-through of Askinosie Chocolate’s website, I was incredibly impressed with how transparent they are with their business practices. They make a strong attempt at clearly communicating to their customers what they are doing and what they hope to do every step of the way. For example, as mentioned before, in addition to the “shop” section of their website, there is a clearly labeled “learn” section, where readers can find a lot of information: the story of the founder, Shawn Askinosie, where their cacao comes from, how their chocolate is made, and all of the special initiatives that have been incorporated into their business model. It even includes a lot of information about what direct trade is and why they choose to have that kind of relationship with their farmers. A whole page is dedicated to explaining their precise seventy-step process of chocolate making, from finding the farmers to molding the finished product, complete with a detailed description and a video demonstration for every step. Additionally, they even have a link to the travel blog (http://askinosiechocolate.tumblr.com/ ) that documents all of their journeys to the countries where their cacao originates from, which includes not only pictures of the cacao farmers, but their communities and schools.

Image taken from Askinosie Chocolate travelogue; Caption: “Yoga before business. Me with my Del Tambo, Ecuador farmer friends in the cocoa trees this morning.”

It is these personal accounts that really show that there is a good relationship between the company and the communities that they are building with. These trips aren’t just about business, but also about building friendships, having fun, and sharing knowledge between cultures. For example, on every trip that Askinosie Chocolate goes on, they make sure to host an extensive chocolate tasting for their partners, who may not have that opportunity.

Charles Levkoe argues that food can be a way to understand and learn about the world in which we live, and part of Askinosie Chocolate’s great communication with their customers is also their eagerness to teach and share information [7]. It is built right into their business model to use their proceeds as a producer of high quality chocolate to educate people and battle social issues. Askinosie Chocolate’s Chocolate University initiative embodies this dedication to education and advocacy for social issues: It is an experiential learning program with a worldwide reach for local students, the goal being to use artisan chocolate making to inspire the students to be responsible global citizens and to use business to solve world problems. They involve students from neighboring schools by visiting their classrooms, hosting field trips to the factory, and even visits to cacao origin sites [8]. In addition, they even allow their customers to learn about the story behind the specific bar of chocolate that they purchased by entering a number into their website (see below).

But what has impressed me most about Askinosie Chocolate and what I believe really, truly sets them apart is their willingness to go above and beyond in creating a sustainable chocolate company. For example, they bring direct trade to a whole new level: Not only are they intimately involved with all of the on-site cacao processing, but they help the farmers identify and solve problems and have complete control over the actual importation of the beans (which is rare). They share their profits with the farmers, visiting them and paying them directly, and even share and explain their financial statements with the farmers, so that they understand exactly why they are receiving the amount that they are [9]. Levkoe also emphasizes that there has been an increasing focus on people as consumers, rather than citizens, and this has led to the image of our current progress as a civilization to be unsustainable [7]. Askinosie Chocolate combats this unsustainability because they care about the people that they are working with. When asked why they practice direct trade, they respond, “Very few chocolate makers do, after all, and almost none go to the lengths we do to be involved every step of the way. It’s certainly not cheaper, easier or simpler, and it definitely doesn’t carry less financial risk for us. We practice Direct Trade because we think it’s the right way and the best way” [9]. Beyond just the business relationship, Askinosie Chocolate does a considerable amount investing back into the communities in the origin locations. For example, in the Philippines and Tanzania, they have worked with schools to develop a Sustainable Lunch Program, where they sell a product harvested there, sell it domestically, and then return one hundred percent of the profits to buy lunch for every student every school day [9].

Advertised on the Askinosie Chocolate website home page, Direct Trade is an integral part of their company.

There is much work for our society to do to truly combat the social, economic, and environmental issues that we face today, but I truly believe that Askinosie Chocolate is a leader in this battle. Their reach extends beyond that of the chocolate industry—they are showing that business is not just all about profit, it’s about what you can do with that profit and the ways that you can improve the lives of those who helped you gain that profit. At the end of the day, bettering one community puts us all in a better position to better all of our communities.


Multimedia Sources

[1] Askinosie Chocolate home page. Digital Image. Available from: https://askinosie.com/. Accessed May 6, 2015.

[2] Cacao farmer representations in advertising. Digital Image. Available from: http://i174.photobucket.com/albums/w104/xlitobabiiangelzpiex/comparison.png. Accessed May 6, 2015.

[3] Askinosie Chocolate travelogue. Digital Image. Available from: http://38.media.tumblr.com/a3312a9a130880a742fd396d66acca29/tumblr_inline_ncom83W4jP1sxcjpi.jpg. Accessed May 6, 2015.

[4] Askinosie Chocolate Choc-o-Lot Number. Digital Image. Available from: https://askinosie.com/. Accessed May 6, 2015.

[5] Askinosie Chocolate Direct Trade. Digital Image. Available from: https://askinosie.com/. Accessed May 6, 2015.


[1] Leissle, Kristy. (2013). Invisible West Africa: The Politics of Single Origin Chocolate. Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, 13(3): 22-31.

[2] United Nations General Assembly (2005). 2005 World Summit Outcome, Resolution A/60/1, adopted by the General Assembly on 15 September 2005. Retrieved on: 2009-02-17.

[3] Our Story – Learn | Askinosie Chocolate. (n.d.). Retrieved May 6, 2015, from https://askinosie.com/learn/our-story.html.

[4] Guthman, Julie. (2013). Fast Food/Organic Food: Reflexive Tastes and the making of ‘Yuppie Chow’. In C. Counihan & P.V. Esterik (Ed.), food and culture (pp. 496-509). New York: Taylor & Francis. (Original work published in 2003).

[5] Chocolate Making – Learn | Askinosie Chocolate. (n.d.). Retrieved May 6, 2015, from https://askinosie.com/learn/chocolate-making.html

[6] Leissle, Kristy. (2012). Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements. Journal of African Cultural Studies, 24(2): 121-139.

[7] Levkoe, Charles Z. (2013). Learning Democracy Through Food Justice Movements. In C. Counihan & P.V. Esterik (Ed.), food and culture (pp. 587-601). New York: Taylor & Francis. (Original work published in 2006).

[8] Chocolate University – Chocolate Farming | Askinosie Chocolate. (n.d.). Retrieved May 6, 2015, from https://askinosie.com/learn/chocolate-university.html

[9] Direct Trade – Chocolate Farming | Askinosie Chocolate. (n.d.). Retrieved May 6, 2015, from https://askinosie.com/learn/direct-trade.html

Chocolate and Females: A Relationship Study

Chocolate is one of the most gendered and sexualized products being sold today.  Its many forms serve many purposes and there are marketing techniques to sell every single one of them.  But in nearly all cases, in each ad there is some reference to a woman in a hetero-normative manner.  All the depictions of women in these commercials imply that the featured woman is in some kind of relationship, usually one with a man.  In order to explore chocolate’s role in relationships, I first examine the overabundance of ads targeted towards heterosexual couples and the idea that men give chocolate to women.  Second, I detail the lack of non-heterosexual ads and show how some ads could be converted in order to begin to break the gendered stereotype.   Third, the relationship specifically between a woman and her chocolate is described and dissected.  Overall, in conducting interviews with couples and delving deeply into advertisements I learned that chocolate is intrinsically linked both to femininity and to relationships, though chocolate’s exact place in a relationship is variable.

Chocolate and the Heterosexual Relationship

The traditional heterosexual relationship is defined as a female engaging romantically with a male.  Romantic interactions may include, but are not limited to, spending time together, exchanging gifts, and engaging in sexual intercourse or other more PG-13 physical encounters, like kissing.  Those three components of relationships feature heavily in the majority of chocolate ads, though often they are not all present in the same ad as that overcomplicates the ad.  Romantic interactions can be generalized to any type of relationship (heterosexual or other), but in chocolate ads we only see them in the heterosexual context.  There is no database of chocolate ads that confirms this. I make this claim using my own knowledge, gathered from years viewing chocolate ads in the media and more significantly, from four months intensely studying chocolate advertising in Dr. Martin’s course.

Let’s begin by examining a 1967 Brach’s ad for Valentine’s Day chocolate (Figure 1 below). I first saw in a Slate Magazine article titled “Cuckoo for Cocoa”.  The article expounds upon women’s supposed craving of chocolate and how the media portrays and takes advantage of it (Anderson).  In this ad, Brach’s claims that the giver of the chocolate will receive “free kisses with every box of Brach’s Valentine Chocolates you give to her”.  Note the use of the word “her” in this advertisement.  Brach’s is specifically marketing this box of chocolates as a gift for a woman.  The gender of the giver is not specified in the ad, but using a number of context clues, we can determine that the giver is almost certainly male.  First, the ad is for Valentine’s Day, a conventionally romantic holiday.  The box of chocolate is given in the attempt to get “free kisses”, which again falls under the umbrella of traditional romantic relationship activities.  Together, these two facts lead us to believe that the chocolates are given from one partner in the relationship to another. The third context clue is that defines this as a heterosexual relationship is the knowledge that this ad was created and distributed in 1967, a time where non-heterosexual relationships were still very much hidden, or at least not publicly marketed towards.  We’ve determined that this Brach’s ad targets males, inciting them to give chocolate to their girlfriend/wife in order to get “free kisses”.  Of course, the kisses aren’t actually free.  They cost either $2.95 or $5.50, depending on which box of chocolates is purchased. The ad is overly feminized, featuring a lacy chocolate box covered in ribbons, many heart shapes, and the imprint of very female lips.  This ad not only reinforces the heterosexual relationship, it furthers chocolate’s classification as “feminine”.



The gendered nature of chocolate probably began when chocolate was carried to Europe.  Robertson argues that the “consumption of chocolate in the west became feminized early in history” and that “chocolate became associated with luxury and leisure in the domestic sphere from the eighteenth century” (Robertson 20). From Robertson, we know two things: that chocolate became associated with luxury and also became feminized. Because of the strict gender roles of the era and the difficulty of transportation, both associations make a great deal of sense.  Cacao was only grown in the New World, so getting it to Europe was an expensive and lengthy process.  Thus it could only be purchased by those with enough coin and so it became associated with luxury.  In the 1700s, women did not have the power to make all their own purchases.  While they did have some autonomy, European women were largely reliant on men for their clothing, shelter, and spending money.  Only in rare cases would women have enough money to purchase their own chocolate.  Instead, men could present their female sweethearts with gifts of chocolate, thereby feminizing chocolate.  For example, in the 19th century, it became popular for men to give their partners “an elegant box of imported bon-bons” (Kawash 1).

The idea that men give chocolate to women has been perpetuated in the modern era.  Advertisements specifically targeted towards men as chocolate-givers continue to reinforce the idea that the gifts are unidirectional and appropriate to give in a romantic context.  A recent New York Times article titled “Sex and Candy” and published right before Valentine’s Day said that “nothing is more symbolic of the romance of Valentine’s Day than a box of chocolates, traditionally a gift from Him to Her” (Kawash 1).  The article goes on to pick apart the reasons why chocolate marketing is aimed at women and why the gift from “Him to Her” is no longer accurate or even appropriate in today’s much broader relationship spectrum. But despite forward-thinking articles like Kawash’s, the “conventional wisdom is that women naturally crave the stuff [chocolate]” (Kawash 1). To determine whether this was true or whether people believed it was true, I interviewed a number of couples –same sex and opposite sex.

Diana and Felipe, 22 and 23 respectively, have been dating for five years.  Three of those years have been long-distance and have involved quite a large number of in-the-mail presents.  Interestingly, most of those presents are sent by Felipe to Diana and many of them feature chocolate or flowers, two stand-by romantic gifts.  When asked why he sent chocolate to Diana, Felipe replied that he believes people, women in particular, feel happy when they receive and consume chocolate.  He wants Diana to associate that feeling of happiness with him, so he sends her chocolate in the hope that, by the transitive property, she will feel happy when she thinks of him.  Where did Felipe get this idea that chocolate makes women happy? “First-hand experience”, he stated, “along with media, family, and friends telling me so”.  Diana and Felipe fall firmly in the heterosexual relationship standard shown by the media, but that does not mean all heterosexual couples do.

The Lack of Non-Heterosexual Chocolate Advertising

After scouring the internet, I was unable to find an overtly homosexual advertisement for chocolate.  There are ambiguous ads that market chocolate to women without directly saying that the chocolate will be given to them by men, but they are much fewer in number than those that firmly depict men giving chocolate to women, or at least feature men and women in some kind of relationship exchanging chocolate.

Follow this link to see an ad by Bonjour Chocolate.  It features very attractive, shirtless men preparing a chocolate creation sensuously.  In this video, there is no implicit male-female relationship.  In fact, it could even be argued that there is some kind of male-male relationship going on.  A group of attractive, naked men making chocolate together? For each other?  The sexual tension in the ad is palpable and if this were the entire ad, one could make a very convincing case that it breaks the heterosexual norm.

Unfortunately, the ad viewed isn’t the entire ad.  In this depiction, I omitted the first twenty seconds.  The full ad can be seen below.

With the additional twenty seconds, the entire gender status of the ad changes. Women are seen coyly flirting with men and almost throwing themselves at the men.  Because they are attractive?  Certainly.  Or at least, before we see the chocolate, that is the primary reason.  After the conclusion of the ad, we might guess that the women are throwing themselves at the men because they know that they make these delectable chocolate creations.  And really, according to today’s society, women are after the chocolate, not the men.  Though if men have chocolate, that certainly increases their chances.  This ad, which is effective even without the first twenty seconds, places itself firmly in the hetero-normative category, when it could just as easily be gender-neutral.

But even in the last forty second of the ad, the men and chocolate are portrayed as feminine.  Note, they are not portrayed as being for women, more that they themselves are feminine.  The portrayal of femininity comes across because the men are being viewed by an outside party and being objectified.  They are being sexualized in a way that usually only women are.  The ad focuses on the lines of their bodies, the play of shadows on muscle and the silkiness of their smooth, hairless skin (almost like that of a woman’s).  The men in the ad are objects to be admired because of their physical beauty and their sensuality, not at all because of their personality or skills. They are preparing food, a traditionally feminine task, and the food they are preparing is delicate and sweet, again expressly feminine.  This ad, while it could break the heterosexual trend in traditional chocolate ads, nevertheless reinforces chocolate’s femininity.

We’ve seen that there are virtually no advertisements targeted specifically towards homosexual couples, so the question becomes, do these couples still exchange chocolate?  The answer is clearly yes.  Just because there ads are not specifically targeted at a given group of people does not mean that they are not affected by the ads.  In fact, because women are so “chocolate-crazy”, wouldn’t it be a logical conclusion that women in same-sex relationships purchase and enjoy chocolate more than their heterosexual counterparts?

This assumption breaks down for a number of reasons.  First, studies have shown that women do not actually desire chocolate significantly more than men do.  A UK study by the Mintel research group showed that 91% of women admit to eating chocolate while 87% of men admit to consuming it – a mere 4% difference (CNN).  Second, unlike the common assumption, PMS has nothing biological to do with the desire for chocolate (Nutter). The association of chocolate with PMS is largely a social construct and continues to exist simply because it is well established. Third and most importantly, women have more wants and needs than chocolate.  In fact, chocolate ranks pretty low on the list for many women, such as for Ana and Wynn, one of the couples I interviewed.  They prefer to give and receive meaningful gifts as opposed to chocolate, which another interviewee, Charlotte, calls chocolate “the gift you get when you don’t know what to get”.   So chocolate isn’t destined to be the ultimate gift for same-sex female couples, but many still appreciate and enjoy it.

I Take Thee, Chocolate

We’ve talked about male-female relationships and female-female relationships, but we haven’t yet talked about the female-chocolate relationship, which is probably the most interesting and newest to advertising of the three.  In this relationship, chocolate becomes the female’s partner.  Take the ad below (Figure 2) for example.  Though it appears to be an older ad, it is a modern take on a 1950’s era chocolate cake ad.  The tagline, “because chocolate can’t get you pregnant,” directly urges the viewer to buy chocolate because it does not have the sex’s potential side-effect of pregnancy.  As only men can cause women to become pregnant (assuming standard biological procedures) it is clear that chocolate here is a substitute for sex, for men.

Figure 2.4

But why is chocolate an acceptable substitute in the present day?  What about contemporary chocolate makes it so similar to men/sex that it is commonly thought to be an appropriate replacement for either?  There are certainly numerous parallels.  First, for “chaste” women, and women are still supposed to be chaste in today’s world though there is much more sexual freedom, both sex and chocolate are forbidden fruits (Parkin). Sex is forbidden because engaging in it reduces a woman’s virtue and chocolate is forbidden because its consumption will eventually lead to weight gain, which is perceived as a negative consequence by much of society.  Second, both chocolate and sex are luxuries, chocolate because it can be expensive, sex because finding a good partner can be quite difficult.  Third, both chocolate and sex can only be had in limited quantities because a healthy body can only handle so much of either.  Basically, chocolate, like sex, is an indulgence, a temptation.  Women want it because they know they shouldn’t have it, and that only makes them want it more.

Chocolate is much more manageable than a man, than sex.  It doesn’t argue, it can’t cause pregnancy, and it is always, always there when a woman wants it. She can pick the brand, the cacao content, even the packaging, to suit her mood, whereas a man cannot be similarly engineered.  True, chocolate cannot give a physical hug in times of trouble, but the media’s portrayal of chocolate as a comfort food means that many people convince themselves that they are comforted simply by the act of eating chocolate.  The media, by continually advertising chocolate as a carnal pleasure (and therefore similar to sex) and by portraying it is as a comfort food (replacing a man’s emotional value), has effectively made chocolate a substitute for men.  But it is even better than men because it is always available and requires much less effort to keep around.  The Axe commercial below shows how crazy women become over the “chocolate man”.  In this ad, chocolate literally takes the place of a man (and by implication, sex).  Women want the chocolate more than they do the man.

Modern women can purchase chocolate by themselves, thereby asserting their independence and placing them in somewhat of a masculine role.  However, the femininity of chocolate reduces the effect of that masculinity.  In fact, consuming chocolate, especially luxury chocolate, which is a firmly feminine food, enhances a woman’s femininity every time she eats it simply because chocolate is so essentially female.  Combined, chocolate’s femininity, the ease with which it can be acquired, its numerous parallels to men, and the media’s continual, in-your-face depiction of chocolate as a substitute for men have made American society believe that chocolate really is an appropriate, even desirable, candidate for a woman to have a relationship with.

Chocolate fits into relationships in a variety of ways, but always it carries a feminine connotation.  Its status as a heterosexual gift could be changed with a large media effort, but its feminine status will not be so easily altered.


Works Cited

Aaron, Shara, and Monica Bearden. Chocolate: A Healthy Passion. Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 2008. Print.

Anderson, L. V. “Cuckoo for Cocoa.” Slate 13 Feb. 2012: n. pag. Web. 4 May 2015.

Kawash, Samira. “Sex and Candy.” The New York Times 14 Feb. 2014, Opinion Pages sec.: A31. The New York Times. 13 Feb. 2014. Web. 4 May 2015.

Nutter, Kathleen B. “From Romance to PMS: Images of Women and Chocolate in Twentieth-Century America.” Edible Ideologies: Representing Food and Meaning. By Kathleen LeBesco and Peter Naccarato. Albany: State U of New York, 2008. N. pag. Print.

Parkin, Katherine J. Food Is Love: Food Advertising and Gender Roles in Modern America. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania, 2006. Print.

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

“Who Consumes the Most Chocolate?” CNN. N.p., 17 Jan. 2012. Web. 4 May 2015.

Multimedia Sources

TV Ad – Axe Dark Chocolate Temptation: Chocolate Man. Adapt. adsoftheworld. YouTube. N.p., 3 Dec. 2007. Web. 3 May 2015.

DK, Anna. Retro poster, “Because chocolate can’t get you pregnant” Digital image. Bird Reynolds. N.p., 24 May 2012. Web. 5 May 2015.

1967 Brach’s Valentine Chocolates. Digital image. AdClassix. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 May 2015.

The Sexiest Ad for the Sweetest Thing. Adapt. ZazulaTheGreat. YouTube. N.p., 14 Mar. 2007. Web. 1 May 2015.


De-gendering Chocolate.


Advertising in chocolate relies on patriarchal norms of masculinity and femininity to market itself as a highly gendered product.


Although there are many definitions of patriarchy, I will use Sylvia Walby’s definition in order to show its effects within the commercial. Walby defines patriarchy as “a system of social structures, and practices in which men dominate, oppress, and exploit women (214).” From this notion of domination and exploitation, gender norms are constructed. Women are expected to be docile and submissive, where men are expected to be violent and aggressive for both physical and institutional domination. Upholding patriarchy encourages these norms as a means of maintaining hierarchy. Consequently, these characteristics are often conflated with and used to define masculinity. This allows little room for those who perform gender outside of these expectations to be valued and supported in society.


The original Snickers advertisement employs patriarchal norms of manhood in attempts to market Snickers as a masculine product. Mr. T uses physical violence to portray this message. He not only destroys the houses by pummeling through them on a monster truck, but he also uses a gallon gun to forcefully shoot the jogging man with Snickers. He evokes war-like sentiments with the gun, tank-type vehicle, and the banner of Snickers bars around his shoulder as ammo. Mr. T’s words and actions are also highlighted by his identity as a Black man. Black men are often perceived by society (through racist caricatures throughout history) as hypermasculine portraying high rates of violence, sexual prowess, and physical dominance. Bell hooks acknowledges that society often defines “patriarchal masculinity by the will to do violence (46).” Through this distinct portrayal of violence, he pits himself as opposing the assumed non-masculinity of the jogger. In this case in particular his identity is used to augment and exacerbate the idea of masculinity being forced onto the jogger. On the other hand, the jogger does not portray these norms of masculine performance. His short bright yellow shorts are highlighted in the beginning of this commercial as are the distinct movement of his hips, often associated with feminine movements. He is also critiqued for his choice of sport: speedwalking, which is being gender-typed as a feminine sport. Interestingly enough, the jogger seems to be evoking a traditional suburban housewife trope where she would be walking through her upper middle class neighborhood (as evidenced by the type of houses and setting) in the middle of the day while the children are at school and husband at work. Whereas this type of woman is normally the target of chocolate commercials, when these same types of characteristics are performed through a male body, it is automatically the object of violence and discrimination. Snickers seems to be trying very hard to brand the masculine aspect of its product by defining a particular type of masculinity. This commercial uses very charged language. Mr. T’s dialogue alone is highly offensive. “Disgrace to the man race”, and “run like a real man” are both types of speech affiliated with homophobia, targeted towards more feminine performing men. The tag line “get some nuts” equates gender performance with sex and promotes sexual prowess as a form of masculinity while undermining other performances not traditionally thought of as masculine.


Snickers is only one of a number of chocolate companies employing gender norms to market their products in a gendered manner. Godiva approaches this through the feminine lens. Instead of reaffirming masculine norms, Godiva uses chocolate to, not quite correct, “improper” feminine performance, but to align the consumption of chocolate with the expression of feminine performance. In the Godiva ad, a woman is dressed in a men’s pantsuit with her hair pulled up and away from her face. Upon consuming the chocolate, she lets her hair down and begins to give off a more feminine appearance. Similar to how Snickers is supposed to impose proper norms of masculinity, Godiva is positioning itself as a feminine brand by enhancing feminine performance through its consumption.


Walby discusses why we may see gender structures employed so frequently and pervasively in media.

“Discourses on femininity and masculinity are instituionalised in all sites of social life, not only in those institutions such as religions, media and education, which have cultural production as a central goal.” (227)

Advertisements use societal and cultural cues to market their products effectively by understanding the psyche of their intended audience. We can see that these commercials are directed towards very different audiences, however, we do see that they are very clearly exclude queer people, trans* and gender non conforming people. It’s important to understand how our society is reflected through advertising and why representation of all sorts is important because advertising works as a form of “cultural production”. It has the power not only to strengthen these understandings, but can work to change them as well.

Specifically in the Snickers ad, they tried to use Snickers as a means of correcting “incorrect” gender performance. In the second ad, Snickers can be used as an emphatic and supporting statement of your gender performance. Snickers claims ‘you’re not you when you’re hungry’, but what if you are? And what if Snickers allows you to be even more you? We have used this before and after advertisement to show how this form of gender performance on the left is only enhanced through Snickers consumption, seen by the increased similar performance in the photo on the right. This advertisement was created specifically in response to the Snickers ad above that attempted to subvert non-traditional gender norms. Using what is traditionally considered “incorrect” gender performance, we are hoping to increase representation for people performing all genders to their likeness, and to break down patriarchal gender norms of all types.



Walby, Sylvia. “Theorising Patriarchy.” Sociology, Vol.23 (2). 1989.

Hooks, bell. We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity. Routledge, New York. 2004.

Naomi Campbell and Chocolate

In the ad below, Cadbury compares its new chocolate bar to model Naomi Campbell, saying “Move over Naomi, there’s a new diva in town”.  Though the Advertising Standards Authority ruled that “the commercial was likely to be understood to refer to Naomi Campbell’s reputation for ‘diva-style’ behavior rather than her race” (Daily Mail), both comparisons nevertheless present problems.  To combat this ad in two ways, its branding of women as divas and of African Americans as chocolate, we created a new advertisement with key phrasing differences that remove any potential race or gender discrimination.


                This purple Cadbury ad, widely distributed in 2011, refers to Naomi Campbell, the famed supermodel .  The ad directly compares Campbell to a diva, telling her to “move over” for a new diva, the Cadbury chocolate bar.  The implication here is quite clear.  Simply, Naomi Campbell is a diva.  In this sense, the word diva is used to mean an extremely talented but very temperamental female.  A diva is someone who likes to be pampered and indulged, beautified and treated like a princess.  By comparing their new chocolate bar to a diva, Cadbury hopes to give the impression that their chocolate bar is the most luxurious, most delicious chocolate bar out there.  However, by doing so, they further the idea that women are divas.  Though being a diva is good in that it is defined to mean exceptionally talented, it carries the unfortunate connotation of also being extremely spoiled and almost mercurial.  Thus this ad falls into the classic chocolate ad tendency of defining women as emotional and subject to giving into their every last desire.  Like most chocolate ads, “it associate[s] chocolate with luxury, women, and moral taboos” (Fahim 15). By changing the word “diva” to “star” in our ad, we eliminate the emotional portrayal of women and retain the idea of excellence.  If we were to keep Campbell in our ad (which we eventually do not), we could make a convincing case for her status as a star instead of as a diva.  Campbell is one of the most successful models of her time and is constantly in the public eye – both qualities that would identify her as a star. Another change we made to this effect is to substitute the word “revolutionary” for “pampered” (in the lower right corner of the ad).  The word pampered furthers the emotional and temperamental association started by diva and classifies women as people who need to be given gifts and have their desires met.  “Revolutionary” instead enhances Cadbury’s message that they are introducing a new product that is going to change the market because of its excellence.


                The implication that Campbell is a diva is clear from the ad, but the more controversial portion of the ad is the possible comparison of Campbell to chocolate because of her skin color.  Cambpell is of African descent and has a skin tone that would be classified by most as black, though of course there are a range of skin tones that are considered to be black. By specifically choosing Campbell as the diva to refer to in the ad, Cadbury adds the “exotic” and “magical” air to their chocolate described by Roberston in “Chocolate, Women, and Empire” (Roberston 1). The United Kingdom, Cadbury’s primary market, is largely composed of white consumers.  The population is not homogenous, but the majority of consumers are white.  Thus a non-white model is perceived as “exotic” because of the difference in skin color.

Instead of simply using Campbell to sell the chocolate, because they directly tell her to “move over,” many consumers assumed that Campbell was being directly compared to the chocolate – that she was the chocolate.  This was offensive because the basis of the comparison was that her skin color allowed her to be classified as a good for sale.  Interpreting this historically, it is possible to make ties to slavery and argue that this is a commoditization of humans, especially those of African descent. This, I believe is the basis of the large amount of criticism Cadbury received for its ad.  To eliminate this racist and historically disturbing association, we remove Campbell from the ad entirely, instead replacing her with the term “supermodels” in general.  By using the word “supermodels”, race becomes ambiguous and unimportant.  Supermodels are still stars, so the intended selling point of the ad remains the same, just the racial connotation is removed.  Our final ad can be seen below.  It is very similar to the original ad, but by chaning “diva” to “star”, “Naomi” to “supermodels”, and “pampered” to “revolutionary”, we eliminate both the race and gender discrimination that are so commonly found in chocolate advertisements.


Interestingly, this is one of the only examples of an African-descended woman to promote chocolate.  As Fahim states in his article, traditionally white women are used to portray the image of luxury and chocolate whereas black women are used to portray earthiness and a lower-class product (Fahim 16).  In some sense, this ad is a step in the right direction by not using a white model.  However, its downfall is that the non-white women is not being used to make the chocolate more attractive.  Instead she is being directly compared to the chocolate.

Interested in reading the Daily Mail’s article about the controversy over the ad?  The full article can be found here.

Works Cited

Fahim, Jamal. Beyond Cravings: Gender and Class Desires in Chocolate Marketing. 2010. http://scholar.oxy.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1002&context=sociology_student

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

Multimedia Sources



ad created by the author and partners

Girls, Boys, and Chocolate

The extent to which gender stereotyping has always been particularly prevalent in chocolate advertising demands that it be looked at more critically. Looking at gender stereotyping is important because of the sociohistorical context in which these advertisements exist: A cross-national analysis of gender stereotypes in advertising in the 1990s has shown that boys were consistently depicted as smarter and more active than girls, and were more often associated with dominance and control (Brown, 2013). Because these advertisements are thrown at us every hour of every day, it is no doubt that the stereotypes they portray will have an effect on the way we view men and women.

Early in its history, chocolate was mainly associated with women and children, but recent advertisements tell a different story. There are several narratives through which chocolate advertisements will employ gender stereotyping in order to sell their chocolate, and these narrative are no longer limited to brash generalizations about women: in more recent decades, there has been an increasing emphasis on the manly capabilities of chocolate. For example, in the 1950s, Black Magic advertised their chocolate to men, as a gift to please their lovers; to women, it was advertised than a man with Black Magic chocolate must be the right type of man—there was an inherent association with the chocolate and favorable qualities in a man, such as a good education and good social prospects (Robertson, 2009, p. 30). Fast forward to today, many Snickers commercials emphasize the ability of a Snickers bar to return a man to his original “manly” state; for example, Snickers’ 2010 Super Bowl commercial featured a man who is playing football like Betty White (presumably like an old, weak woman), until he eats a Snickers bar:

But my main topic of discussion in this essay will be Nestle’s Yorkie bar, a popular chocolate bar in the United Kingdom that dropped itself deep into the heart of gender stereotyping controversy. Up until very recently, the chocolate bar’s slogan was “It’s not for girls!”, a slogan endorsed so boldly that it was even printed on the chocolate bar’s wrapper along with a “no girls” symbol right in the chocolate bar’s name.

The slogan “It’s not for girls!” can be found directly on the wrapper of the Yorkie chocolate bar, along with a “no girls” symbol in “o” of the name “Yorkie”.

Yorkie’s most well known commercial depicts a female who has disguised herself as a male construction worker in order to obtain a Yorkie bar—the shopkeeper makes her go through a series of tests in order to prove her “manliness,” the last of which she ultimately fails.

A closer analysis of the stereotypes within this commercial reveals just what it is trying to say about BOTH men and women. For example, let us look at the tests of manliness that the shopkeeper performs: He begins by asking her a question about a sports rule, employing the stereotype that men are experts on all things sports, while women know nothing about them. He then tells her to open a jar of walnuts, employing the stereotype that men are stronger than women. Afterwards, he quickly says something provocative about stockings, invoking the objectification of women as a point of discourse among men, before attempting to scare her with a rubber spider, employing the stereotype that women are afraid of bugs, while men are much braver and harder to scare. The shopkeeper then hands over the Yorkie bar, only to snatch it back when he compliments the woman’s eyes and she reacts positively, which I presume is something only a woman would do. It seems to take a lot for somebody to be qualified to eat a Yorkie bar. The advert closes with a man saying in a deep voice: “Yorkie—Five big masculine chunks of chocolate, it’s not for girls.” In terms of appearance, the woman has also adorned a mustache, typically a male “accessory,” and the clothing of a construction worker, also usually associated with males and having strength.

Advertisements like these are harmful to both men and women because of the way they portray gender roles. They push a lot of unrealistic expectations onto men by strictly and stereotypically defining what it means to be masculine: to like sports, to be physically strong, to like women, to be fearless, to not care about your appearance. They reinforce these stereotypes and make men who don’t quite fit them want to buy the candy bar so that they can feel and be perceived as manly. On the flip side, they exclude women from these stereotypically male traits (by defining being strong as masculine, it’s almost like saying that women can’t and shouldn’t be strong) and define women as the opposite of these traits: not knowledgeable about sports, weak, easily frightened, etc.

In the spirit of standing against gender stereotyping in advertisements as a way to promote gender equality, my group member and I have created our own advertisement for the Yorkie chocolate bar, based on the format of a still Yorkie advertisement.

The original Yorkie advertisement that we based the format of our advertisement on depicts a Yorkie bar with words saying “Not available in pink,” implying that there isn’t a version of the Yorkie bar for girls (who are associated with liking pink).
Rebranded Yorkie Ad
Our original advertisement that attempts to rebrand Yorkie, maintaining that it is a chocolate bar for the strong, but not “strong” in the traditional sense.

Our advertisement maintains the original theme of the Yorkie bar as a chocolate bar for those who want to be STRONG, but we have redefined what it means to be strong. We want to portray that, instead of physical strength and masculinity, being strong means standing up for equality and being open-minded and above the stereotypes that we’re forced to face in our lives every day.


Multimedia Sources

“Betty White Snickers Commercial Super Bowl Commercial 2010.” YouTube video, 0:30. Posted by “MistahSparkles70,” Feb 8, 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18ya0-OZ58s. Accessed April 9, 2015.

Yorkie chocolate bar. Digital Image. Available from: http://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/s–HVF54WyS–/18i92d74k0g8ajpg.jpg. Accessed April 9, 2015.

“Yorkie – It’s NOT for girls.” YouTube video, 0:29. Posted by “LoweCafeina,” July 31, 2006. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QcjlzSod0CE. Accessed April 9, 2015.

Yorkie advertisement. Digital Image. Available from: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/multimedia/archive/00341/114100916__341964c.jpg. Accessed April 9, 2015.


Brown, Beverley A. (2013). “Gender Stereotypes in Advertising on Children’s Television in the 1990s: A Cross-National Analysis.” Journal of Advertising, 27(1): 83-96.

Robertson, Emma. (2009). Chocolate, Women, and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press.

A Case Study in Chocolate Branding: The Hershey Company

The Hershey Company, known popularly as Hershey’s, is one of the largest chocolate-producing companies today. They own many famous brands, including but not limited to, Reese’s, Kit Kat, Hershey’s Kisses, and York Peppermint patties. This multi-billion dollar company is one of the oldest chocolate companies in The United States and its chocolate bars have become iconic for most Americans. Founded in 1894 in rural Pennsylvania by Milton Hershey, the Hershey Company’s popularity has only grown over the course of the last century. And during that time frame, the Hershey Company’s brand has evolved, their marketing practices have changed, and they have shaped and have been shaped by their consumers. The case study of the Hershey Company reflects and provides much insight into trends in the history of chocolate itself, how it became such a commonplace consumer good, and the challenges that consumers of chocolate face because it has been producing chocolate for so long.


The video embedded above gives a very brief overview of Hershey’s evolution as a company. It highlights some of the changes in their marketing practices: how Hershey started mass-producing milk chocolate, how the company marketed their chocolates as “affordable luxuries,” how they created their signature brands, and how in the 1960s, they began to create media campaigns, utilizing a variety of different tactics to target different audiences.

When Milton Hershey created the Hershey Chocolate Company under his Lancaster Caramel Company, he wasn’t making the products that we are accustomed to seeing today. In 1895, the Hershey Chocolate Company was making over one hundred different chocolate products: They came in fanciful shapes like cigars and wafers and were wrapped in colorful packaging. Many of them were portrayed as luxurious, with French sounding names like Petit Bouquets and Le Roi de Chocolate, even though they were affordable for the general public [1].

Hershey’s early chocolate products were very different from the Hershey’s we know today.

However, with industrialization, chocolate products all over started to become mass-produced and even more widespread and accessible—the fact that chocolate could be so easily incorporated into other products made it even more popular. Hershey was able to find a way to mass-produce milk chocolate, perfect his recipe, and in 1900, the first Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar was produced [2]. As the video mentions, Hershey’s was now able to market their chocolate as “an affordable luxury,” as milk chocolate was previously only for the wealthy, and to put an emphasis on the quality of their chocolate.

An ad from the 1930s that shows Hershey’s chocolate syrup as a “stepping stone to health.”

Despite the onset of the Great Depression, Hershey’s continued to manufacture new and profitable products: the Mr. Goodbar Candy Bar (1925), Hershey’s Syrup (1926), the Krackel Bar (1938), etc. Despite their success, the Hershey Company did very little advertising in its first few decades. An executive from Hershey’s advertising agency is quoted saying, “The Hershey Company was against doing any kind of large-scale advertising for a long time, and as one of the nation’s original confectioners, they didn’t have to do any.” [3]

It wasn’t until the late 1960s that they began to launch national ad campaigns. Following their previous portrayals of Hershey’s chocolate as beneficial for your health, they launched a television commercial that showed Hershey’s instant powder as a way of getting kids to drink their milk.

The Hershey Company targeted many different audiences with their ad campaigns: children, dancers, and even immigrants? One commercial that they created even portrayed people of various ethnicities enjoying a Hershey’s, the “great American chocolate bar.”

No matter who they were targeting, Hershey’s marketed their chocolate bars as something that would make you happy, a staple of the American diet.

However the Brand Evolution video above also highlights some of the controversy that the Hershey Company has faced due to some of its business decisions. For example, in order to reduce costs, the Hershey Company decided to replace the cocoa butter in some of their products with vegetable oil—this led to many unhappy consumers and reminds us all that chocolate purity is still an issue. And only recently in 2012 has the Hershey Company agreed to switch to fair trade cocoa, ending their child slave labor practices on cacao plantations in West Africa [4]. However, even this transition is predicted to take up to 8 years.

The history of the Hershey Company can serve to teach us all about the history of chocolate. We can observe how chocolate went from being a luxury to a commonplace good, as it became incorporated into more and more products. In that process, it was marketed in a very versatile way, to many groups of people, making chocolate even more popular.


Multimedia Sources

[1] “From The Kiss to a Great American Chocolate Empire: A History of Hershey’s.” FastCompany video, 2:38. Posted by FastCompany. http://www.fastcompany.com/3038479/from-the-kiss-to-a-great-american-chocolate-empire-a-history-of-hersheys. Accessed March 22, 2015.

[2] Hershey’s Early Products. Digital Image. Available from: http://www.hersheyindia.com/lib/imgs/about/slide-img2.jpg. Accessed March 22, 2015.

[3] Hershey’s Syrup Ad. Digital Image. Available from: http://photos-ak.sparkpeople.com/nw/5/0/l50448930.jpg. Accessed March 22, 2015.

[4] “Hershey’s Instant 1960s Cows Ad.” YouTube video, 0:28. Posted by “3zy,” June 9, 2006. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0JWekEqFdM. Accessed March 22, 2015.

[5] “Hershey’s Candy Bar Commercial.” YouTube video, 0:30. Posted by “Mort Shuman,” July 3, 2006. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47-blY2vZMY. Accessed March 22, 2015.


[1] (2014, February 7). Looking Back: Hershey’s First Chocolate Products. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://blog.hersheyarchives.org/2014/02/07/looking-back-the-first-hershey-chocolate-products/.

[2] The History of the Hershey Company. (n.d.). Retrieved March 22, 2015, from http://www.thehersheycompany.com/about-hershey/our-story/hersheys-history.aspx#

[3] Luclew, John. (2013, June 24). Hollywood gets Hershey’s marketing history mostly right in ‘Mad Men’ finale. The Patriot News. Retrieved from http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2013/06/hollywood_gets_hersheys_market.html.

[4] Antoniades, Andri. (2012, October 6). Hershey Slave Labor Will End With Switch to Fair Trade Cocoa. takepart. Retrieved from http://www.takepart.com/article/2012/10/06/hershey-vows-stop-using-child-slave-labor-eight-more-years.

A Spicy History

Chocolate and spice were married long before Lindt began producing its iconic chili-flavored chocolate bars.  In fact, spices were found in chocolate when the Spaniards invaded the Aztec Empire, meaning that they have been integrated in chocolate for over 500 years.  Over the course of chocolate’s lifetime, the amounts and kinds of spices used have varied widely and consumer’s attitudes towards them have changed drastically.

Figure 2.3

Though there is no concrete evidence of the first use of spice in chocolate, it is relatively safe to assume that chocolate was first consumed without spices.  I assume this because most mixed products are originally consumed as separate ingredients simply because they must be tasted first in order to discern where they fall on the flavor spectrum.  Only then can tasters determine which ingredients should be combined to maximize flavor sensation.  When the Spaniards arrived, spices and flowers like chili peppers and “ear flowers” were used universally in chocolate (Coe and Coe 2013). As chocolate is thought to have first been consumed by the Olmecs (1500-400 BCE), spices must have been added sometime between 1500 BCE and 500 CE, approximately when Cortés invaded. As spice was so firmly intertwined with chocolate when Cortés arrived, it was probably introduced and perfected earlier on in that time period.  In addition to ear flower and chili peppers, Mesoamericans also used vanilla, achiote, and mecaxóchitl (Mexican pepperleaf) to flavor their chocolate (Norton 2004).  The spices and flowers used had a wide variety of heat and appearance (see pictures below), but they were used either to complement each other or as individual flavorings.  The main use of these original spices was for flavor and not appearance as the chocolate was so dark that it would take a large amount of spice to alter the entire appearance of the chocolate.  Chocolate’s consumption as a liquid also enhanced the use of spice for taste rather than flavor because liquid chocolate is well mixed, so spices cannot easily be placed at the top for a dramatic visual effect.


Some of the invading Spaniards took kindly to the spices in chocolate, but others did not.  The flavors were so foreign to the Spaniards that they were not immediately appreciated.  When chocolate made its way over to Europe, not all the spices came along for the journey.  There are two leading theories for this lack of migration.  First, Spaniards returning from Mesoamerica believed that their mainland counterparts would not enjoy the additional spice in the chocolate.  Second, importing spices along with cacao beans would have increased the number of imports (Norton 2006).  As silver and gold were so valuable and chocolate was so desired, spices for chocolate flavoring kind of fell by the wayside.  Personally, I believe that both of these theories have some merit.  Lack of space and lack of desire for spices by Spaniards made not including them in the Spanish diet very easy.

Though spices were consumed in moderation by some Spaniards, as Norton explains in her article Conquests of Chocolate, by “the end of the eighteenth century [in Spain], all that remained of the spice complex was cinnamon and sugar” (Norton 2004). Essentially, Spaniards substituted more familiar spices (like cinnamon) for use in chocolate and largely ignored the traditional Mesoamerican spices.  Sugar use in chocolate continued to increase as sugar consumption in Europe increased, leading to sugar’s emergence as the primary supplement to cacao beans. Cinnamon was also frequently used, though mainly in chocolate drinks instead of in chocolate bars (sugar was used both in bars and drinks).

Though 18th century chocolate was largely spice-less, modern chocolate often includes chili peppers, sea salt, vanilla, or cinnamon.  So how did spices become popular again? Today, spiced chocolate is viewed almost as a delicacy and as a food for those with refined tastes.  This is a complete turnaround from a few hundred years earlier, when those spices were a mark of the Mesoamerican roots of chocolate.  I believe this turnaround occurred for two primary reasons.  Following the industrial revolution and in tandem with increased ease of travel, people began to venture further from their homes.  The ability to travel was a marker of class (because travel could be expensive), and thus a taste for “exotic” ingredients became an indicator or how well-traveled, and therefore financially well-off, a person was.  Spicy ingredients like chili peppers fell into this “exotic” category and thus experienced an upswing in popularity.  Second, the ease of travel also meant a greater ease of transportation of goods.  Transportation is now much quicker and more efficient than in 18th century Spain, meaning that more goods can be imported and exported.  Thus the cost of importing spices is reduced, and more spices can be imported to chocolate-consuming countries.

In the modern era, neither of the original factors that prevented spices from becoming popular in Spain apply — there is a desire for the spices and there is a means to acquire those spices.  Spices have become incredibly popular in western chocolate, with bakeries developing that specialize in chocolate and spice (like this one in Las Vegas).  Because of the additional cost, spices are seen as somewhat of fancier ingredient for use in chocolate, but it is nevertheless available to most of the masses because of its use by companies like Lindt. Spice use in chocolate seems to have come full circle. Originally, Mesoamerican spices were mixed in, then abandoned for more European-friendly spices like cinnamon, and now both Mesoamerican and non-Mesoamerican spices are included in chocolate bars and drinks. I predict that the level of spice use in chocolate will only increase. Western consumers (largely the drivers of the chocolate market) now have a taste for both Mesoamerican and other spices, and that taste and the ability to satisfy it fairly economically indicate that spices will continue to enhance chocolate for the foreseeable future.



Works Cited

Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. London: Thames & Hudson, 2013. Print.

Norton, Marcy. “Conquests of Chocolate.” OAH Magazine of History 18.3 (2004): 14-17. Web.

Norton, Marcy. “Tasting Empire: Chocolate and the European Internalization of Mesoamerican Aesthetics.” The American Historical Review 111.3 (2006): 660-91. Web.


Multimedia Sources

Figure 1 – Sandberg, Anders. Lindt Chocolate. Digital image. Flickr, n.d. Web.

Figure 2A) – Dry Chili Pepper. Digital image. Wikimedia, n.d. Web.

Figure 2B) – Fou, Augustine. Vanilla-beans-bundles-2x. Digital image. Flickr, n.d. Web.

Figure 2C) – Open fruit of the achiote tree (Bixa orellana), showing the seeds from which annatto is extracted; photographed in Campinas, Brazil (January 2009). Digital image. Annato. Wikipedia, n.d. Web.

Figure 2D) – Piper Friedrichsthalii. Digital image. Piper (genus). Wikipedia, n.d. Web.

Hyperlink – “Chocolate and Spice Bakery.” Las Vegas Cake Bakery. Cubic IT Consulting, n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2015.

Living Out the American Dream: Hersheytown, PA

After a rough start in the late nineteenth century, Milton S. Hershey had finally grown a booming business in caramels. He then began to set his sights on the next horizon: milk chocolate. After experimentation to create his own type of milk chocolate that would last longer on shelves, Hershey began expand this product, soon producing on a mass scale. At the turn of the twentieth century, Hershey had decided to expand his productions into an all-inclusive company town where his workers would live and work. Hershey town’s utopian ideals and local production allowed the company to brand itself as distinctly American and embrace a national market.


(Photo Source: http://billontheroad.com/hershey-pennsylvania/)

The ideology of the Hershey Chocolate Company town presented a contrast from the status quo and appealed to the values of equality and anti-corruption that were popular at the time. Milton Hershey’s idea to build Hershey town coincided with and were influenced by the rise of the progressive movement, supporters of whom wanted to “make American society a better and safer place to live[1] .’ During this time, Roosevelt enacted key antitrust legislation, and large corporations were often vilified as corrupt and exploitative. Under this atmosphere, Hershey wanted to create a utopia town that embraced big business with responsible ethics. Unlike other company towns, Hershey’s town was meant to provide a stable and fruitful living environment for its workers. Hershey first framed the town as the “perfect American town” that represented “right-living and well-paid workers [who] lived in safe, happy homes (D’Antonio 115).”



(Photo Source: http://www.hersheyhistory.org/collections/photo-gallery)

Indeed, Hershey maintained the economy of his town through home ownership, a key distinction that separated it from other often oppressive company towns and a key aspect of the “American dream[2]”. D’Antonio sheds light on how Americans were thus able to buy more than chocolate from the Hershey Corporation:

“This meant that people who purchased Hershey Chocolate weren’t just buying a treat, they were contributing to a grand experiment that was going to prove that big business, often feared and resented, could do remarkable good.” (115).

By including a social benefit in addition to good quality, the Hershey Corporation appealed not only to its consumers, but also empowered its workers as well furthering the brand in fulfilling its progressive ideals [6]. In the first year of manufacturing in the town, net sales increased 25% to $1 million (D’Antonio 119).


(Photo Source: http://blog.hersheyarchives.org/tag/hershey-park/)

Hershey’s local production aligned with traditional American of small farmers and factory workers . Incorporating small local dairy farms (through acquisition or partnerships) and forming a strong factory worker engaged both visions of the quintessential American worker. The farmer evoked a more traditional outlook, and Thomas Jefferson characterized them as representing the foundation of republican values[5]. In a documentary on the “Great American Chocolate Factory”, the narrator invokes the historical place of the dairy farmers as doing the work their “fathers and grandfathers[3]” had done before them. On the other hand, factory workers represented a shift in the American economy through industrialization, and America’s economic growth was centered on this sector of the population.

Appealing to ideologies and concepts consistent with the American public and history through Hersheytown, the Hershey company rose as a quintessential “American” company. Hershey’s employed this position in advertising as well. Although it is unclear when the phrase “Great American Chocolate Bar” first came into use, this saying was widely employed in advertising in the 1980s. A series of commercials were released depicting scenes that were seemingly supposed to represent iconic portions of American life and populations. This commercial that aired in 1983 plays upon key images – a scene with a child eating Hershey’s at a baseball game, America’s pastime, and finishes with a Native American man and his son eating Hershey’s on a horse by the mountainside. These images represent both contemporary America as well as America’s true origins.  While the visuals evoke a wide range of American imagery, the jingle emphasizes the local aspect of Hershey production. The last line of the commercial – “You don’t have to go very far, because Hershey’s is the great American chocolate bar[4]” – emphasizes the local “truly American” and ubiquitous nature of the food product.

Hershey Chocolate Company and the town that bears its name have their roots in the American dream. What better name than the Great American Chocolate Bar!

(Photo Source: http://www.stationbay.com/images/products/preview/fo1394.jpg)


[1]http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/presentationsandactivities/presentations/timeline/progress/ – Library of Congress “Progressive Era to New Era, 1900-1929

[2] 80+ % of Americans believe homeownership is important and still part of American dream – Merill Lynch study – https://www.ml.com/articles/age-wave-survey.html

[3] “Great American Chocolate Factory” –  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lP1_746b6ZM – 00:15

[4] 1983 Hershey’s commercial https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pa8D9dLiRQ0 .

[5] Samuel C. Hyde Jr., “Plain Folk Yeomanry in the Antebellum South,” in John Boles, Jr., ed., Companion to the American South, (2004) pp 139-55

[6] Company Town: Hershey, PA – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-YRevHegL8 – 3:30-34

Additional Works

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

How Did All This Chocolate Get Here? From Mesoamerica to Europe

With the incredible prevalence of chocolate in our world today, it is almost incomprehensible to imagine a world several hundred years ago, where the decadent treat, in a form much different than what we know today, was enjoyed only in select parts of Mesoamerica. The Mayans and the Aztecs were among the first to make use of the cacao tree and its fruits in a way so that it became a defining part of their culture. It begs the question, how exactly did chocolate become so widespread and popular? It is rare today to find somebody who will say that they don’t like chocolate! In this short essay, I will explore the early of assimilation of chocolate consumption into European (Western) society and what it reveals about the relationship between the Old World and the New World.

A infographic showing the chocolate consumption per person in pounds per year from 2009. Chocolate is most certainly no longer just for the Mayans and the Aztecs.

The initial reaction of those who tasted chocolate in the New World was not a pleasant one. In his History of the New World (1575), Milanese adventurer Girolamo Benzoni writes: “It [chocolate] seemed more a drink for pigs, than a drink for humanity. I was in this country for more than a year, and never wanted to taste it…” (Coe & Coe, 2013). A similar reaction came from the Jesuit Jose de Acosta, who likened the frothy foam of the chocolate drink to feces (Norton, 2006). Based on initial reactions, it did not seem as if chocolate could ever be very popular.

Often, a very biased story of how the Europeans assimilated chocolate into their society is told: They came to the New World and hated the taste of chocolate, so they changed it to suit their own European tastes by adding sugar, etc; however, this is a very limited perspective. So how did chocolate assimilation happen? According to Marcy Norton, it was a result of the structure of Spanish colonization: Dependent on the indigenous peoples for their survival, the Spaniards were forced to assimilate into indigenous culture, and as a part of that, they had to learn to like chocolate (Norton, 2006). Amongst the Mesoamericans, in villages, in marketplaces, even a part of customary welcome rituals, chocolate was everywhere and practically unavoidable (Norton, 2006). It was these Spaniards in the New World who brought the knowledge and taste for chocolate back to the Old World. However, it took a while for the beverage to become popular in Europe—as it was not initially appealing, the initial spread of chocolate was dependent on having a large enough market of people who had already been to the New World and had already experienced chocolate.

When chocolate began to become popular in Europe was the point when the cultures of the New World and the cultures of the Old World began to mix and clash. How would chocolate be received by the European people? Would it be changed to fit the mainstream European taste? Upon visiting Mexico, Spanish physician and author Bartalomé Marradoń revealed his anxiety about marketplaces being a meeting point among cultures where the regular order was thrown out of balance: now the Mesoamericans were the source of knowledge and valuable goods, and the Spaniards the seekers and buyers (Norton, 2006). Similar tensions arose in Europe: There was a concerted effort to “incorporate cacao into a civilized framework,” which meant classifying it within the humoral scheme—only then was chocolate acceptable, though at first as medicine (“A Concise History,” n.d.). There was also debate about where chocolate fit into religion: Was it a food or a beverage? Was it okay to consume during the fast? The social and religious etiquette concerning chocolate had not yet been established and this led to much controversy (Forrest & Najjaj, 2007). Eventually, chocolate became associated with those of high social standing—it was considered a luxury item, exotic and even sinful to consume (if at the wrong time) (Forrest & Najjaj, 2007).

Antonio de Pereda – Still Life with an Ebony Chest (1652); This work of art was dedicated to the sensory delights of the New World. Depicted, you can see a molinillo for frothing chocolate on the left in front of the chest, chocolate drinking cups on the tray, and sugar ready to use on the right. The ebony chest is probably where the cacao was kept, a reminder of what a luxury it was considered to be.

Initially, those who brought chocolate back to Europe tried very hard to recreate the same sensory experience that chocolate brought in Mesoamerica (Norton, 2006). However, because of their distance from the original source, Europeans had to use what was available to them to this end. Taste-wise, chocolate had to evolve, but it was not necessarily because the Europeans could not enjoy its Mesoamerican taste—they added spices that they were familiar with and made modifications that they felt would help maintain chocolate’s sensory experience (Norton, 2006). The Europeans also adapted existing Mesoamerican customs when it came to chocolate: Instead of pouring the chocolate from cup to cup to froth it, they invented the molinillo for that purpose (Coe & Coe, 2013). They made use of the Aztec innovation of making chocolate disc-like wafers, but for the purpose of easy export rather than as talismans (Coe & Coe, 2013).

An image of a scene depicted on the Princeton vase, a Late Classic Mayan artifact, demonstrates how the Mayans frothed their chocolate drinks.
An image depicting a woman frothing chocolate using a molinillo, a Spanish innovation in adapting the process of chocolate frothing from the Mesoamericans.













Colonization opened the door for the exchange of a wealth of culture and the creation of new social relations. It was confusing for the Europeans to be able to take a good from a people that they considered to be uncivilized and barbaric—it created a lot of tension and controversy until the practice became widespread enough. One could also argue that the Europeans appropriated the culture of the Mesoamericans, but without their actions, we wouldn’t have chocolate in the world as we know it today.



Coe, Sophie, and Michael Coe. The True History of Chocolate. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd., 2013. Print.

Norton, Marcy. “Tasting Empire: Chocolate and the European Internalization of Mesoamerican Aesthetics.” The American Historical Review 111(3) (2006): 660-691. Web. “A

CONCISE HISTORY OF CHOCOLATE – the C-spot.” the C-spot. n.d. Web.

Forrest, B.M., Najjaj, A.L. “Is Sipping Sin Breaking Fast? The Catholic Chocolate Controversy and the Changing World of Early Modern Spain.” Food and Foodways: Explorations in the HIstory and Culture of Human Nourishment 15(1-2) (2007). Web.