Tag Archives: Wednesday

From Assortment Box to Jewelry Box: Another Flavor of Chocolate in Advertising

The allure of cacao and the lure of its profits have been felt throughout its history, from Mesoamerica to modern day. It is the drink of royalty, the food of the common people, and the foundation of economies and personal fortunes. Cocoa and chocolate are a part of everyday life for many people across countries, and the marketing and advertising world has not only made a note of this, they have made it part of their portfolio. From healthy chocolate to over the counter medication, from incredibly expensive artisan chocolate to inexpensive treats, and from body spray to diamonds, chocolate is everywhere when you simply pay attention. How has it become so prevalent? The marketing of chocolate over the years is one of the main reasons chocolate is as omnipresent as it is today. In the United States specifically, chocolate’s historical and problematic advertising practices, including sexism, classism, racism, and the over sexualization of women are so integrated into the country’s consumer consciousness that these patterns are now being remixed, recycled and regurgitated by companies looking to profit from the universal appeal of chocolate with an added dash of nostalgia. By involving chocolate in some form, manufacturers and advertisers are trying to add a level of comfort, luxury and value that is inferred by the general public, even when it is wrapped in a not so attractive package.

By connecting chocolate advertising to other long standing advertising devices, such as body image, weight issues and general health, new products and companies build marketing strategies around patterns familiar to the general public. ‘Healthy’ chocolate overlaps body image, weight control and the desire for chocolate. The addition of marketing buzz words like ‘superfoods’ and ‘phytonutrients’ increase the common person’s buy in that this product is good for you, even though the fine print usually says that none of the health claims are verified by the Food and Drug Administration. Companies selling ‘healthy’ chocolate such as Aloha Chocolate (https://aloha.com/shop/superfood-chocolate), and Xoçai (http://xocai.xocaistore.com) have appeared in the marketplace to fill the created niche. Both products’ marketing says that their chocolate is high in antioxidants, low in sugar, and nutritious. The flip side of ‘healthy’ chocolate coin is chocolate for health, products that use chocolate as a vehicle for supplements or over the counter medicines. Mars, Inc. has created the CocoaVia® cocoa extract supplements through the Mars Symbioscience (http://www.marssymbioscience.com/about-us) company segment that creates consumer products based on ideas generate throughout Mars, Inc. CocoaVia® was created from an idea that came from research done by the Mars Center for Cocoa Health Science (http://www.marscocoascience.com/). The website (http://www.cocoavia.com) fills a lot of space on each page about how cocoa flavenols are good for you and how a new patented cocoa extract process preserves and provides the most flavenols for the supplement. All of the ‘healthy’ chocolate and chocolate for health brands mentioned reflect the inherent classism present in chocolate advertising, because the products would be too expensive for the lower class, and even some middle class consumers would have to choose between spending extra funds on them instead of other essential and non-essential items.

Another chocolate for health product is Dr. Cocoa®, a line of over the counter children’s cough and cold medications launched in 2014. The company uses the ingredient real cocoa as a method to get children to take medication, taking a page from the book of a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. The FDA approved medications have been combined with 10% real cocoa and other ingredients for a “rich, soothing, chocolate taste” (http://drcocoa.com/about/).

From the Facebook page of Dr. Cocoa. 26 Feb 2015

The cute packaging with the cartoon owl is reminiscent of animated cocoa and chocolate candy advertisements. The product does not make any statements that the real cocoa adds health benefits, just flavor.

Inedible products are also tapping into chocolate’s fountain of appeal. One of the most expensive products in this category has candy coated an unpalatable gemstone color with a layer of much more appealing chocolate. Brown diamonds, which are “the most widespread colored diamonds. They were used only a few years ago almost exclusively for industrial purposes, now they are invading the [gem] market” (MinBlog) have entered the marketplace on a wave of glossy chocolate. Brown diamonds are classified by their color, which ranges from the lightest shade of brown, champagne, to the darkest shade, coffee.

The Wilkinson brooch, composed of champagne, cognac and chocolate diamonds… In other words: brown diamonds! © Smithsonian Institution. Photo: Chip Clark.

The most well-known purveyor of brown diamonds, the Le Vian® Corporation, “branded Chocolate Diamonds® in 2000 and achieved registration by 2008 and now enjoys worldwide trademark registration and rights” (Stewart). Le Vian® has bound together in the minds of consumers the two products and made them much more marketable to the public, even though the gems themselves have not increased significantly in value. As seen in the below commercial “the Kiss”, Le Vian® has put forward that the gift of a Chocolate Diamond® is the way to a woman’s…heart.

The commercial recycles some of the most sexist tropes of chocolate advertising. The way the woman’s libido is fired by the chocolate (diamonds), and the way that, after she kisses her man, her lips are coated to overflowing in dark, luscious chocolate, are both repetitive themes in chocolate advertising. The implication that a woman and her favors can be bought with some form of chocolate is something that we have all seen before. Jewelry stores that carry the line, however, have been moving away from the ‘he bought her’ framework and have created marketing specifically around women buying their own jewelry. These new commercials, however, continue the ‘women can’t resist chocolate’ and ‘buy yourself a nonfattening treat’ tropes. Again, the pricing of the jewelry is out of range for many people, and the commercials feature predominantly white customers, with the only people of color presented as the sales people.

The inescapable advertising of chocolate in the U.S. has set up a rocky foundation for other commodities to build on. As the consumer public provides feedback to chocolate companies that their advertising is problematic, whether its from issues of race, gender, class, etc., the tropes just move on to the next product campaign. Are the same companies or individuals responsible for the repurposing of old ideas? What are the policies involved, if any, in the reinforcement of negative media images of women and people of color? Or is any publicity is good publicity the modus operandi? Future research into the marketing companies who help create the campaigns needs to be done.

Works Cited

Carla Martin.  AAAS E-119.  Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Lecture 9.  “Issues in Advertisement”.  April 1, 2015.

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


N/A “Color in Diamonds.” MinBlog, the blog of the Mineral Sciences staff of the National History Museum of Los Angeles County. 21 Jan 2013. Web. 15 May 2015 http://nhminsci.blogspot.com/2013/01/color-in-diamonds.html

Stewart, Dodai. “The Truth About Chocolate Diamonds.” Jezebel. 13 Feb 2013. Web. 15 May 2015. http://jezebel.com/the-truth-about-chocolate-diamonds-5887100

Le Vian®. “Kiss” TV Commercial. YouTube. 01 Oct 2013. Web. 15 May 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_fT1ZCln2Q


Cover photo. Dr.Cocoa Facebook page. 26 Feb 2014. Web. 16 May 2015 https://scontent-lga.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xtp1/v/t1.0-9/1924806_830680147003397_2927372854384106797_n.jpg?oh=00f7b21b29b97857d1504e322e96c59c&oe=55C1FCA2

Picture 2 “Color in Diamonds.” MinBlog, the blog of the Mineral Sciences staff of the National History Museum of Los Angeles County. 21 Jan 2013. Web. 15 May 2015 http://nhminsci.blogspot.com/2013/01/color-in-diamonds.html

Askinosie: Setting High Bars for Chocolate Bars

Buying chocolate is a process that takes most people around 15 seconds and hardly requires a second thought beyond whether we prefer a nutty crunch or a crispy one. But for every 15 seconds spent buying most typical supermarket brands of chocolate, buyers are also tacitly supporting unfair labor practices, contributing to poverty, and fueling child slavery. In reality, the sweetness of chocolate belies the bitterness of the chocolate supply chain. Most mass producers of chocolate such as Hershey’s, Nestle, and Mars, rely on child labor and unfair practices to funnel their chocolates onto store shelves. Even practices aimed at solving these issues, such as Fair Trade certification to guarantee fair prices to cocoa bean farmers, are rife with problems and inconsistencies themselves. In light of these realities, it may seem impossibly difficult for a consumer to find a truly ethical way of consuming chocolate. However, some chocolate companies are working hard to overcome such problems. Askinosie Chocolate, in particular, is a bean-to-bar chocolate company that seems to defy standards for ethical consumption and shows an incredible commitment to transparency throughout its supply chain. Lauded by notable publications such as National Geographic, O, The Oprah Magazine, and USA Today as an ethical choice for chocolate buyers, as well as receiving a 2014 Good Food Award for “craft chocolate makers and confectioners who ‘do the right thing’” (“In The News”), Askinosie presents itself as a model chocolate company with an honorable commitment to ethical consumption.

As mentioned, the chocolate supply chain is rampant with unscrupulousness tactics and exploitation. One of the key concerns is improper labor practices at the root of the supply chain–most notably, cocoa bean farmer compensation. When the chocolate industry is “worth an estimated $110 billion a year,” and cocoa bean farmers are “some of the poorest people on the plant” (Percival), something is clearly amiss. Cocoa bean farmers are miserably underpaid, receiving a heavily disproportionate amount–estimated at 3%–of the profits from chocolate bars (Torre and Jones). According to Orla Ryan, “What this means is that the poorest farmers can make just $500 a year, an income which makes it impossible to do little more than survive, let alone hire labourers, buy fertiliser or invest in new seedlings” (Ryan 60). It isn’t surprising, then, that farmers are generally driven to find the cheapest labor to cultivate cacao, which often turns out to be child labor.

The industry’s dependence on child labor to produce cocoa beans is perhaps the most blatantly vicious problem in the chocolate supply chain. In Bitter Chocolate, Carol Off details appalling working conditions–”The farmers, or their supervisors, were working the young people almost to death. The boys had little to eat, slept in bunk-houses that were locked during the night, and were frequently beaten. They had horrible sores on their backs and shoulders, some as a result of carrying the heavy bags of cocoa, but some likely the effects of physical abuse” (Off 121). Additionally, the IITA (International Institute of Tropical Agriculture) estimates 300,000 children to be working in hazardous conditions on cocoa farms (Ryan 48). Since two-thirds of all cacao is sourced from West Africa, where child labor is widespread (Dand 73, Ryan 49), it is inevitable that child labor is largely sustaining the production of big companies such as Hershey’s and Mars, despite how much these companies try to deny it.

Though there have been attempts at remedying problems in the chocolate supply chain, these approaches seem to teeter between being marginally beneficial and woefully unhelpful. Fair Trade certified chocolate, for instance, which assures higher compensation for farmers in developing countries in exchange for a higher price to consumers, is becoming increasingly prevalent and is often touted as the desirable choice for fashionably ethical consumers. This trend, however, can easily beget a mentality in which non-Fair Trade certified items are seen as categorically less ethical than Fair Trade items, hurting business for farmers without Fair Trade certification even if they practice ethical production. Since Fair Trade certification can be prohibitively costly to obtain and requires being in a cooperative, it tends to be mostly accessible to the rich, detracting from the original goal of increasing sustainability for poor farmers. Furthermore, Fair Trade lacks standardization in certification, often fails to properly ensure that standards are met, and it has no guarantees for product quality (Haight). This propagates a culture monopolized by larger companies that frequently misrepresent their products and evade transparency in business dealings, with no rigorous evidence that Fair Trade is actually attaining its goals of proper farmer compensation and sustainability. Thus, while Fair Trade certification isn’t necessarily bad, per se, it hardly connotes a golden standard of ethical production.

Fair Trade Certified Logo
Fair Trade Certified Logo

In the face of these glaring imperfections in the chocolate industry, Askinosie Chocolate seems to be a shining beacon of virtue. Its website earnestly claims, “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” (“Our Story”). Founded on the values of transparency, direct trade, and community involvement, the company engenders a culture that feels not only ethical, but also benevolent.

Askinosie goes to great lengths to ensure proper compensation for its cocoa bean farmers. Farmers are paid considerably higher than the Fair Trade price and middlemen are eliminated from the equation, promising a shorter, more transparent supply chain. Askinosie’s “A Stake in the Outcome” program is based on “Open Book Management” whose philosophy is this: “if employees shared in the profits and the outcome of a company’s success, they would feel greater ownership in the process leading up to the end result” (“A Stake In The Outcome”). Accordingly, Askinosie Chocolate practices direct trade by traveling to each of their four cocoa origins–Ecuador, Honduras, Tanzania, and the Philippines–and personally meeting with farmers to have open conversations about profits–which are proportionally shared with farmers–and to discuss strategies for improving cocoa bean quality (“A Stake In The Outcome”).

Askinosie meeting with farmers

Since the quality of cocoa affects profits margins, the farmers are incentivized to work harder to improve harvests. Askinosie thus promotes cocoa bean quality as well as high farmer compensation–two feats that Fair Trade has had limited success with. Fair Trade labels are often tacked onto lower quality cocoa since this allows the cocoa to sell for much more than it’s worth, setting a low bar for quality in Fair Trade chocolate. The Askinosie website boasts that their chocolate is “100% traceable” and that they “know the name of every farmer” (“Direct Trade”), implying that the company is deeply involved with every step of the chocolate-making process, from bean to bar. At any step, the company can and does modify its techniques in order to verify proper production. This also ensures environmentally friendly practices–”our cocoa beans are grown using organic, pesticide- and chemical-free practices that are ecologically responsible. We know this because we see it firsthand!” (“Direct Trade”). Video documentation of the 70-step chocolate-making process exemplifies Askinosie’s uncompromising commitment to transparency–and, as a result–to quality.

Askinosie also exerts a heavy hand in improving the various communities of the locales that produce the cacao, which truly elevates the company to an unparalleled level of altruism. In Kyela, Tanzania, and Davao, Philippines, Askinosie has created “A Product of Change”–an innovative sustainable lunch program that allows communities to essentially provide food for their own children (“Direct Trade”). It enables the communities to create unique local products such as Kyela rice and Filipino cocoa blocks and sell them to Askinosie, who facilitates access to the global market by selling the products abroad and gives 100% of the profits back to the communities to be used to provide school lunches for students. According to their website, the company has provided more than 315,000 meals since 2011 and “since the program’s inception, school attendance has increased, 90% of Malagos students have gained weight and achievement test scores are up 25%” (“A Product of Change”). In stark contrast to chocolate companies that seem to fuel hunger, poverty, and general deterioration, Askinosie has made marked advancements toward overcoming them.

Finally, Askinosie’s Chocolate University program involves the community around the Askinosie factory by allowing young students to participate in the company’s ventures. Schools in the community have direct relationships with the Askinosie factory and students are able to participate in the chocolate making process as well as form relationships with students abroad at the various origins (“Chocolate University”). Furthermore, applicants from local high schools travel to the origins and engage in the process of harvesting cacao and participate in the various community programs, allowing the students to cultivate a drive for altruistic entrepreneurship and be active participants in bettering the community (“Chocolate University”). This also further commits another layer of transparency to Askinosie’s business operations, showing that the company is legitimately holding up to its claims.

Students working with Askinosie as part of the
Students working with Askinosie as part of the “Chocolate University” Program

Askinosie Chocolate establishes itself as a genuine, honest company that is exceptionally dedicated to the betterment of not just the chocolate supply chain, but also the world. With its firm commitment to transparency and practicing business in a responsible and sustainable way, Askinosie stands out as a chocolate company that truly sets the bar for greatness, making it harder to consume chocolate that isn’t ethical. It’s easy for us to ignore the hunger that plagues cacao farmers in developing countries when our own bellies are loudly crying out for vending machine chocolate, but as Askinosie has shown us, chocolate making does not have to be unethical. In fact, it can be a process that’s remarkably beneficial and uplifting.

Works Cited

Dand, Robin. International Cocoa Trade. Boca Raton, FL: CRC, 1999. Print.

Haight, Colleen. “The Problem with Fair Trade Coffee (SSIR).” Stanford Social Innovation Review. Stanford PACS, 2011. Web. 6 May 2015. <http://www.ssireview.org/articles/entry/the_problem_with_fair_trade_coffee>.

Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet. New York: New, 2008. Print.

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

Multimedia Sources

“A Product of Change™.” Askinosie Chocolate. Web. 6 May 2015. <https://askinosie.com/learn/a-product-of-change.html>.

A Stake In the Outcome. Digital image. Askinosie Chocolate. Web. 6 May 2015. <https://askinosie.com/media/page-headers/A-Stake-in-the-Outcome.jpg&gt;.

“A Stake In The Outcome™.” Askinosie Chocolate. Web. 6 May 2015. <https://askinosie.com/learn/a-stake-in-the-outcome.html>.

“Chocolate University™.” Askinosie Chocolate. Web. 6 May 2015. <https://askinosie.com/learn/a-stake-in-the-outcome.html>.

“Direct Trade.” Askinosie Chocolate. Web. 6 May 2015. <https://askinosie.com/learn/direct-trade.html>.

Fair Trade Certified. Digital image. Fitbie. Rodale, 15 Oct. 2012. Web. 6 May 2015. <http://www.fitbie.com/sites/default/files/Fair-Trade-Certified-Logo-juicebar.jpg&gt;.

“In The News.” Askinosie Chocolate. Web. 6 May 2015. <https://askinosie.com/learn/news.html>.

“Our Story” Askinosie Chocolate. Web. 6 May 2015. <https://askinosie.com/learn/our-story.html>

Percival, Matt. “Cocoa-nomics: Why Chocolate Really Doesn’t Grow on Trees.” CNN. Cable News Network, 3 Apr. 2015. Web. 6 May 2015. <http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/13/world/africa/cocoa-nomics-does-chocolate-grow-on-trees/>.

Pipkin Chocolate Team. Digital image. Askinosie Chocolate. Web. 6 May 2015. <https://askinosie.com/media/images/PipkinChocolateTeam.jpg&gt;.

“Roasting Beans from Askinosie Chocolate.” Roasting Beans from Askinosie Chocolate. Web. 6 May 2015. <https://player.vimeo.com/video/87807961&gt;.

Torre, Inez, and Bryony Jones. “Cocoa-nomics Explained: Unwrapping the Chocolate Industry.” CNN. Cable News Network, 27 Feb. 2014. Web. 6 May 2015. <http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/13/world/africa/cocoa-nomics-explained-infographic/index.html>.

Talking Fair Trade: Exploring Chocolate Consumption and Ethical Perspectives through a Chocolate Tasting


In a world of increasingly globalized supply chains, considering the origins of the products that we use every day can be a daunting task. Economist Pietra Rivoli’s renowned book The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy follows the production processes for different components of a standard t-shirt across the nations in which they are produced, discussing the labor conditions, history, and current economic situation in each locale. Rivoli recounts efforts by manufacturers to cut production costs along every step, from harvesting materials to manufacture and even resale. Yet, she arrives at a somewhat surprising conclusion – despite the relatively dismal conditions under which some workers labor, “she asserts that their jobs were a little better than other available options (usually farm work) and, what’s more, that textile factories led to advances in industrialization and, just as dependably, in living standards” (Lowenstein, 2005). This leads to a somewhat befuddling moral quandary – should we be willing to accept global jobs that provide significant relative benefit to the employees, even if the working conditions are poor on an absolute scale?

Unfortunately, Rivoli’s findings are by no means limited to the textile industry. Globally, the cacao industry employs millions of farmers in impoverished areas that are less-than-satisfied with their line of work, even if it’s necessary for their subsistence; as noted in class, “less than one-quarter of cocoa farmers would recommend that their children go into farming” (see Lecture 15, slide 9). However, despite the wishes of their parents, many children do not have a choice – the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) reported from a study began in 2001 that more than one million West African children work on family cacao farms (and thousands more children working on farms without family ties), with “most children [stating] that they came to work because factors out of their control – such as family poverty” (Toler et al. 1).

Of course, numerous solutions have been devised to mitigate this problem. Perhaps the most notable program that works to improve labor conditions on farms is Fair Trade, “a global trade model and certification [that] allows shoppers to quickly identify products that were produced in an ethical manner” (see “What is Fair Trade?”). Toler et al. describe Fair Trade as “a proven solution to the child labor crisis because it guarantees farmers a stable living wage, prohibits abusive child labor and forced labor, and requires independent monitoring of farms each year” in addition to ensuring environmentally responsible practices are enacted (Toler et al. 4). Fair Trade manifests its benefits for both producers and consumers: the farmers and their families see quality of life improvements from receiving higher wages, while chocolate consumers enjoy a higher quality product that comes with the moral satisfaction of having helped afford a better life for farmers that are less well-off. The appeals of the program have certainly gained traction in recent years; as seen below, Fair Trade certified product sales have risen tremendously from 1998-2011, increasing from just a few millions of pounds cumulatively to 250 million pounds annually.

Fair Trade Sales in the United States have risen drastically across the past 15 years.

As with any proposed solution to an ethical problem, there are numerous criticisms of Fair Trade. Some argue that Fair Trade neglects the poorest growers, or that it attracts lower quality product since prices can be made artificially high; another argument holds that the prohibitive costs of certification prevent some from participating and heavily reduce profit margins for some participants (Wydick, “10 Reasons Fair-Trade Coffee Doesn’t Work”). On the consumer side, a popular criticism is that the moral satisfaction consumers may gain from buying Fair Trade products affords a false sense of having “done good,” while failing to tackle or even appreciate the actual problem of widespread poverty that remains prevalent. Fair Trade is in vogue, and is on the rise – but is it effective? Perhaps just as importantly, are people aware of it and what it means for producers?


One of the themes of the course by which I was most engaged this semester was that of food as an inherently social object, the need for and consumption of which necessarily affects our social lives (see: Objectives 4 and 7, Lecture 5). The notion of food as a social bonding tool is by no means new; William Robertson Smith wrote in his 1889 foundational anthropological work The Religion of the Semites that “the very act of eating and drinking with a man was a symbol and a confirmation of fellowship and mutual social obligations” (Robertson 269). Sidney Mintz acknowledges this viewpoint in Sweetness and Power, expressing his belief that “the connections between food and kinship, or food and social groups, take radically different forms in modern life. Yet surely food and eating have not lost their affective significance” (Mintz 5). In keeping with this concept, I wanted to use this ethnographic project as an opportunity to bring people together over eating food and a shared interest in exploring and discussing chocolate while still diving into the complex ethical issues we tackled in the second half of the course. Accordingly, I asked several friends and roommates of various backgrounds to join me in consuming chocolate bars from different origins and talking about the differing conditions that may have factored into their production.

Logistically, I and five friends spent an hour on Friday, 5/1 trying three different chocolate bars and conversing about the practices behind the chocolate’s production and how that relates to the global cacao industry today. To contextualize the findings from our discussion, I will first briefly provide details on each chocolate bar and the values and practices of the company behind it.

Taza's "Cacao Nib Crunch" bar. $5.99
Taza’s “Cacao Nib Crunch” bar – $6.99

The flagship company for ethical business practices discussed in this class has been Taza Chocolate, a chocolate manufacturer based locally in Somerville, MA. Taza prides themselves on making “stone ground, organic chocolate” that features the cacao as the centerpiece of the experience rather than the sugary sweetness of most modern chocolate. Notably, Taza sources Direct Trade Certified cacao, which is often thought of as going a step beyond Fair Trade in terms of ethics – it strives to build lasting relationships with organic cacao farms and farmers, paying premium prices over the accepted price for high-quality organic beans and ensuring fair labor practices (see “Taza Chocolate Direct Trade Certified Cacao”). In this sense, Taza is likely to be perceived as the “most ethical” of the three companies. The bar used for this tasting was a “Cacao Nib Crunch” bar with 80% dark stone ground chocolate, pictured below, purchased for $6.99.

The second bar came from Equal Exchange, a food producer and seller that deals exclusively in fairly traded products. They define their mission as being “to build long-term trade partnerships that are economically just and environmentally sound, to foster mutually beneficial relationships between farmers and consumers and to demonstrate, through our success, the contribution of worker cooperatives and Fair Trade to a more equitable, democratic and sustainable world” (see “Equal Exchange – About).

Equal Exchange Very Dark bar - $5.99
Equal Exchange Very Dark bar – $5.99

The company’s website also lists a variety of their farmer partners for sourcing cacao, providing detailed information about each cooperative, their relationship with Equal Exchange, and how cooperative farming and Fair Trade relationships have tangibly benefited the worker (see “Equal Exchange – Chocolate and Cocoa”). They adhere very strictly to the notion of Fair Trade, hoping to serve as a representative success story that could inspire others to participate. Given this, Equal Exchange is the “second most ethical” of the three companies used in this tasting. The below-pictured $5.99 Organic Very Dark Chocolate with 71% cacao content sourced from cooperatives in the Dominican Republic and Peru was selected for this study to keep with the dark chocolate theme of the Taza bar.

The final bar requires less explanation, and will be more familiar to most consumers – a standard Hershey’s milk chocolate bar, one of the most iconic bars around the world. Unfortunately, the source of the cacao used in the production of this chocolate bar is less transparent than the other countries, so the exact labor practices are less well-known; however, Hershey’s has received criticism in the past for permitting poor labor practices and conditions on West African farms from which they source cocoa (Baird et al. 1). As such, it was considered the “least ethical” of the bars and companies.

Hershey's Milk Chocolate bar - $1.25
Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar – $1.25

Having laid out the bars used, I will list a few of the questions used to motivate discussion. Although I did not restrict the discussion to a more linear format, the conversation flowed nicely and moved around topically without much difficulty.

  • How much do you know about labor practices in the cacao industry?
  • Have you heard of Fair Trade? If so, what are its implications, and do you think it’s a good program? How about Direct Trade?
  • Which of the chocolate bars do you most prefer and why?
  • What would you expect each bar to cost?
  • Do you consider ethics when purchasing products in general? What about chocolate specifically?

The discussion was extremely productive, with everyone participating substantially and me serving as a moderator without trying to guide their opinions or experience. The favorite chocolate bar of the five participants was the standard Hershey bar, closely followed by the Equal Exchange bar. The Taza bar was too “gritty” and unrefined feeling for most of the participants, who also found it to be extremely bitter compared to the taste they were used to and did not enjoy the taste of the cacao nibs. The Equal Exchange bar was also found to be bitter, but not relative to the Taza bar, and it had a smoother texture. The Hershey bar was described almost unanimously as “familiar” and “what I’m used to” by the tasters, which gave it the edge over the craft bars. The average predicted price for the Hershey bar was understandably accurate, but the participants expected the Equal Exchange bar to cost $8.00 on average rather than the $5.99 that it cost; similarly, the predicted average price for the Taza bar was $8.60, whereas it only cost $6.99 in reality. The differential between actual and expected prices reveals that the participants held some incorrect conceptions about the price of “craft” or luxury chocolates. This has interesting societal implications in that it suggests the average consumer may associate “unique” or nonstandard chocolates with an even higher price point than they achieve in reality, which may distance more cost-conscious buyers.

However, the interesting results of the discussion extend far beyond those inferred from price differentials. Much of the talk centered on ethical cocoa production and the responsibility of consumers and sellers in this process. After some discussion, the participants agreed that relatively well-off Western consumers have some moral responsibility to purchase ethically-produced chocolate (assuming they have the means to do so), but identified two key problems. First, one participant noted that he and one other participant were not especially aware of Fair Trade practices before the discussion, and suggested that education of consumers about alternatives may be one logistic barrier to popularizing ethically-produced products that exists right now. Additionally, another person pointed out that sourcing and scaling up Fair Trade products takes time, and that supply has to rise before demand in order for the products to remain affordable and attractive. I found these to be reasonable concerns, but shared the consensus opinion that Fair Trade was overall a step in the right direction – even if it does not go as far as Direct Trade certification, it is better than sourcing and consuming uncertified cacao.

A fascinating discussion on how global expectations of chocolate have changed ensued when trying to assess why the Hershey bar was most favored. One theory is that because it was perceived as more familiar, it matched their expectations about how chocolate should taste sweet and feel smooth. As Mintz discusses, the constant and steady addition of more sugar to the diet of the modern consumer has colored expectations for the taste of different foods. The role of marketing in establishing expectations of sweetness for customers was also briefly discussed, which included mention of the sugar industry’s bankrolling of studies in the late 20th century as we learned in class.

One potential bias in the conversation’s demographic was that not many of the participants regularly consume chocolate that they have purchased for their own personal enjoyment due at least in part to being on fairly restrictive college budgets. Anecdotally, all five other people agreed that they ate free chocolate treats at events or on special occasions more frequently than they purchased them for themselves. As such, the views of the participants may not be reflective of those of the average chocolate consumer in the U.S.

Overall, it proved to be an incredibly informative discussion with important conclusions. Despite the general consensus that relatively well-off Western consumers have some ethical obligation to purchase Fair Trade chocolate when possible, most consumers do not seem to do so as a result of cultural conceptions of chocolate as sweet as well as somewhat-misguided affordability concerns due to the association between “different” chocolate and expensive chocolate. This demonstrates that we must work as a society to break cultural conceptions of chocolate as necessarily being sweet before organic and Fair Trade production practices become favored. While this is a broad goal, the steps of tackling consumer education and establishing more Fair Trade and Direct Trade farms are meaningful first efforts.

Works Cited:

Baird, Harper, Nicole Guevara, Aleksander Karpechenko, O. C. Ferrell, and Linda Ferrell. “The Hershey Company and West African Cocoa Communities.” The Hershey Company and West African Cocoa Communities (2012): 1-10. Web. 6 May 2015. <http://danielsethics.mgt.unm.edu/pdf/Hershey%20Case.pdf&gt;.

“Chocolate.” Better World Shopper. N.p., 2014. Web. 06 May 2015. <http://www.betterworldshopper.org/chocolate_data.html&gt;. Note: for a list of the research sources used to compile these rankings, please see: http://www.betterworldshopper.org/research.html

“Equal Exchange – About.” Equal Exchange. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 May 2015. <http://equalexchange.coop/about&gt;.

“Equal Exchange – Chocolate & Cocoa.” Equal Exchange. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 May 2015. <http://equalexchange.coop/products/chocolate&gt;.

Lowenstein, Roger. “Travels With My Florida Parrot T-Shirt.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 20 Aug. 2005. Web. 06 May 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/21/business/yourmoney/21shelf.html&gt;.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin, 1985. Print.

Smith, William Robertson. The Religion of the Semites: The Fundamental Institutions. 3rd ed. New York: Macmillan, 1927. Archive.org. Web. 6 May 2015. <https://archive.org/stream/lecturesontherel028530mbp#page/n11/mode/2up&gt;.

“Taza Chocolate Direct Trade Certified Cacao.” Taza Chocolate. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 May 2015. <http://www.tazachocolate.com/About/Taza_Direct_Trade_&gt;.

“The Taza Chocolate Story.” Taza Chocolate. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 May 2015. <http://www.tazachocolate.com/About/Our_Story&gt;.

Toler, Deborah, Ph. D, and Melissa A. Schweisgurth. “While Chocolate Lovers Smile, Child Cocoa Workers Cry.” Ed. Jason D. Mark. (n.d.): 356-60. Web. 6 May 2015. <http://www.globalexchange.org/sites/default/files/cocoareport2003.pdf&gt;.

“What Is Fair Trade?” Fair Trade USA. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 May 2015. <http://fairtradeusa.org/what-is-fair-trade&gt;.

Wydick, Bruce. “10 Reasons Fair-Trade Coffee Doesn’t Work.” The Huffington Post. N.p., 07 Aug. 2014. Web. 06 May 2015. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bruce-wydick/10-reasons-fair-trade-coffee-doesnt-work_b_5651663.html&gt;.

Multimedia Sources:

Elliott, Kimberly. “Is My Fair Trade Coffee Really Fair? Trends and Challenges in Fair Trade Certification.” Center For Global Development. N.p., 19 Dec. 2012. Web. 06 May 2015. <http://www.cgdev.org/publication/my-fair-trade-coffee-really-fair-trends-and-challenges-fair-trade-certification&gt;.

“Fair Trade and Earth Day.” One World Fair Trade. N.p., 12 Apr. 2013. Web. 06 May 2015. <http://www.oneworldfairtrade.net/blogs/news/7686973-fair-trade-and-earth-day&gt;.

Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar. Digital image. Hershey’s. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 May 2015. <https://www.hersheys.com/pure-products.aspx&gt;.

Organic Very Dark Chocolate. Digital image. Equal Exchange. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 May 2015. <http://shop.equalexchange.coop/chocolate/chocolate-bars/organic-chocolate-bar-very-dark.html&gt;.

Ranson, Ben. Fairtrade Criticisms. Digital image. SlideShare. N.p., 11 Dec. 2014. Web. 6 May 2015. <http://www.slideshare.net/captainbenranson/fairtrade-criticisms&gt;.

Taza Stone Ground Cacao Nib Crunch Amaze Bar. Digital image. Tony Caputo’s Food Market & Deli, n.d. Web. 6 May 2015. <http://www.caputosdeli.com/products/taza-stone-ground-cacao-nib-crunch-amaze-bar.html&gt;.

The Reality of Ethical Consumption

Is it possible to save the planet from one’s selections in his or her own local supermarket? While some would argue that small individual decisions in the supermarket fail to have a lasting impact on a larger scale, there continue to be many consumers who seek specific lifestyles such as vegetarianism, organic, or free-trade. Even while being aware of certain injustices in the world, consumers continue to habitually purchase items they are accustomed to. This prompts the question: Why is it so difficult to be an ethical consumer? To further my understanding, I interviewed a former alumnus of the Chocolate class (referred to as Mr. T) in order to better understand how his decisions regarding general food purchases (and specifically chocolate) have been impacted since becoming aware of ethical production practices and graduating college. Through an analysis of his commentary, it becomes evident that routine ethical consumption is hindered by price value, deep seated consumer habits, and the variance in social reward.

Is it possible to save the world from one’s local supermarket?

First, what does it mean to be an ethical consumer? Cooper-Martin and Holbrook  describe ethical consumer behavior as “decision-making, purchases and other consumption experiences that are affected by the consumer’s ethical concerns” (Cooper-Martin and Holbrook 1993). Thus it is the conscientious effort in one’s consumption habits based on moral qualms that pertain to a particular individual. In general, it is very easy to get information about ethical consumption, whether it’s hearing it from the news or friends sharing knowledge. For example, many consumers are aware that a large percentage of manufactured goods in the United States are produced by the labor of Chinese factory workers. Even though labor practices in China have been described as inhumane, the relatively cheap manufacturing and production costs allow a market within the United States to flourish, with many American consumers buying these products without a second thought. However, it then becomes necessary to make the distinction between being an ethical consumer of necessities versus luxuries.

While ethical considerations can be considered for both necessities and luxuries, it is more justifiable to be critical of the behavior for the latter. When asked about his consumption patterns, Mr. T replied that when buying items deemed as necessities such as food, gas, and household supplies, he would opt for the most convenient or cheapest option, without really considering the ethical implications. This notion of price being a limiting factor in purchase decisions is not a new one by any means. In a study done by Bray et al., researchers attempted to find the root behind the failure of consistent ethical consumption, and found that “focus group participants often mentioned price, suggesting that they cared more about financial than ethical values, particularly with reference to food and other frequently purchased items” (Bray et al. 2011). When an individual has to purchase necessities on a weekly or perhaps even more frequent basis, consciously selecting the more “ethically considerate” item can quickly add up to cause financial distress. This idea is fleshed out in a 2008 comic by Tom Fishburne, in which the consumer has a dilemma: whether to shop ethically and think about the environmental impact of everything she buys, or realizing that the economy is in a recession and deciding to “screw the environment… buy the cheapest crap you can find” (Fishburne 2008). In good economic times, it is much easier to be conscious of the far-reaching decisions one makes because that is a financial luxury they can afford — however, when times are tough and money needs to be conserved, consumers will most likely prioritize their own economic well being over others.

Despite price being a primary motivator in consumer behavior, another prevalent hindrance to ethical consumption is brand loyalty and the repeated purchases of particular products from selective locations. One corporation that seeks to specifically cater to the morally conscious consumer is Whole Foods Market, whose goal is to make them “feel good about where [they] shop.” Whole Foods Market offers a wide selection of Free-trade, organic, and Non-GMO products to provide a different shopping experience, one where consumers are expected to purchase more expensive goods to receive a morally pleasing trip to the market. In fact, customers (including Mr. T) have described the experience as visiting a “food playground.” The mission of Whole Foods Market is threefold: (1) environmental sustainability (e.g., local or organic food, biodegradable packaging); (2) labor justice (e.g., organic production as safer for workers, fair trade); and (3) community building (e.g., shopping at a local market to strengthen community relationships) (Johnston 2011). By developing a consumer base that prioritizes advocating social issues through their purchases, Whole Foods Market has thrived even during trying economic times through successful brand marketing. However, critics of the “feel good” concept Whole Foods Market is advertising note that habitual shopping there perpetuates an socioeconomic and class-segregated food system in which not all people with positive intentions are able to shop at. Adam and Raisborough note that globally, Fair Trade certified products saw a 47% increase in sales ($2.4 billion) in 2007 from its previous year, causing various businesses and marketing companies to profile and identify “the ethical consumer” and “exploring their ‘ethical awareness’ in relation to purchase behavior” (Adam and Raisborough). Mr. T believes that “Whole Foods is trying to make people feel like they are doing a good thing, which is sometimes true, but the problem is if more companies end up pretending to be moral,” in the hopes of serving the same privileged customer base. As that particular customer base tends on average to be of higher socioeconomic status, the distinction between what is a necessity and a luxury becomes a bit more blurred, and as such, they are more susceptible to morally targeted marketing claims.

Whole Foods Chocolate Section

This blurring of the line between necessity and luxury is readily apparent by the existence of the huge chocolate section of Whole Foods Market, which is filled with a large variety of single source, environmentally aware, and fair trade chocolates. In Sweetness and Power, Mintz goes through how sugar (and its related goods) evolved from a rarity in the 1600s, to a luxury by 1750, to finally a necessity in Western culture by 1850 (Mintz 78). Although any product that needs to be advertised is not a necessity, if chocolate were simply a luxury in this instance, there would be no need for such a diverse selection of chocolates; for some, chocolate has essentially become a necessity in their lifestyle. The manner in which the chocolate is advertised to these particular individuals is quite interesting. For example, the Equal Exchange chocolate has a picture of the cacao farmer plucking a cacao seed on the cover, with the tagline “from small farmers with love.” Furthermore, the phrase “fairly traded” is repeated three times on the front, in addition to the “fair trade certified” logo — it’s pretty clear that the advertisers of this chocolate are really trying to drive home the point that this chocolate is fairly traded, and that by purchasing this chocolate, the consumer can feel good about his or her decision as it more directly benefits the farmer and his quality of life.

Equal Exchange Chocolate (note the multiple prints of “Fairly Traded”)

Yet despite being aware and knowledgeable about the controversies which surround chocolate, many consumers forego their “morals” and end up buying cheaper and (for some) tastier chocolate as the tangible benefits outweigh the immediate intangibles. Mr. T, having taken the chocolate class, is definitely one of the more aware individuals regarding the issues of how and where chocolate is sourced, yet more often than not he claims he reaches for the Cookies and Cream Hershey’s Bar over the fair trade chocolate. He especially notes that he now is actively aware whenever he makes the decision, having learned about fair trade as well as ethical consumption, but it’s difficult to become an ethical consumer himself, and he believes that his singular purchase won’t make a significant difference. He believes that “the solution is not to buy the one that says fair trade, but rather the big name companies need to be held more accountable in how the chocolate is sourced — it’s way too hard to ask the consumers to merge social activism with a snack you’re craving.” This sentiment is not foreign by any means;  Johnston describes one particular consumer who “acknowledged a more general tension between her desire to support social justice initiatives, and her desire for delicious-tasting food: ‘’I do try to get fair trade products. But sometimes, like for example, chocolate, I’m just not sure if it tastes as good’” (Johnston 2011). Consumers in a capitalist society will generally shift towards a prioritization of their pleasures over their ideals, believing that “citizenship ideals as too time consuming or costly to incorporate into their shopping routines” (Johnston 2011). It’s difficult to change consumption habits, especially when they go against the individual’s pleasure preferences.

Getting information about ethical consumption is simple enough — it’s acting upon it that’s the real challenge. Although it’s unrealistic to expect everyone to consider the ethical ramifications of their purchases, the first step in a global solution would be to disseminate knowledge widely so that individuals are at least aware of their actions. The next step could include pressuring companies to be held more accountable for their actions in the production and manufacturing of their chocolate by establishing investigative groups that would determine whether standards such as no child labor, fair wages, and reasonable working conditions are being properly upheld by the companies. Even if we can’t always change the human desire to prioritize pleasure over ideals, we can always strive to try to make this world that we live in a little more sustainable and equitable for all.

Works Cited

Adams, Matthew, and Jayne Raisborough. “Making a Difference: Ethical Consumption and the Everyday.” The British Journal of Sociology 61.2 (2010): 256-74. JSTOR. Web. 5 May 2015.

Bray, Jeffery, Nick Johns, and David Kilburn. “An Exploratory Study into the Factors Impeding Ethical Consumption.” Journal of Business Ethics 98.4 (2011): 597-608. Web. 5 May 2015.

Cooper-Martin, Elizabeth, and Morris B. Holbrook. “Ethical Consumption Experiences and Ethical Space.” Advances in Consumer Research 20 (1993): 113-18. Association for Consumer Research. Web. 5 May 2015.

Johnston, Josée, and Michelle Szabo. “Reflexivity and the Whole Foods Market Consumer: The Lived Experience of Shopping for Change.” Agriculture and Human Values 28.3 (2011): 303-19. Springer Link. Web. 5 May 2015.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin, 1985. Print.

Chocolate Chip Cookies: A Symbol of the Housewife

The chocolate chip cookie is now a staple of almost every American home. From the original recipe to cookie dough to pre-made cookies, they surround us in a multitude of forms. The invention of the chocolate chip cookie has revolutionized the chocolate industry, and the treatment of chocolate chip cookies over time illuminates key aspects of traditional gender roles in American society.

Within the context of chocolate, chocolate chip cookies were invented and rose to fame relatively recently. While forms of chocolate have been consumed since the Aztecs and Mayan civilizations, and solid chocolate was adapted by Europeans, chocolate was not used in cookies in America until the mid-1800s (Stef). The chocolate chip cookie does not play a role in the chocolate industry until one hundred years later, when it was invented in 1937 (Moore). During this time, chocolate became more industrialized and readily accessible to the American public.

A common tale for the invention of chocolate chip cookies is that Ruth Wakefield, the owner of the restaurant Toll House in Massachusetts, ran out of baker’s chocolate to put in cookies and instead put chunks of bittersweet chocolate (Michaud). However, this story has been contested multiple times with claims of Wakefield’s expertise in baking. Wakefield would never have allowed her famous bakers to run out of key ingredients for cookies, so she must have deliberately worked to create the chocolate chip cookie (Michaud). One author debunks the claim that Wakefield was simply adding chocolate to a drop do cookie recipe by investigating the recipe: there is no brown sugar or vanilla in the recipe, which are necessary ingredients for chocolate chip cookies (Cooper). These theories seem to give Wakefeld that credibility that she deserves, but the fact that the more common origin story of the chocolate chip cookie is that she discovered the recipe by accident demonstrates how society can easily discount qualifications and instead simply follow the popular version of events.

Nestlé bought the rights to Wakefield’s recipe and the name “Toll House” in 1939, giving rise to the commercialization and spread of the chocolate chip cookie (Michaud). (Interestingly, the story says Wakefield was paid for the recipe with a lifetime of free chocolate!) The accidental creation of chocolate chip cookies may be the most popular origin story to boost Nestlé’s ability to advertise chocolate chips, or for Nestlé to more easily take ownership of the concept of chocolate chip cookies. In fact, chocolate chips themselves were created as an item in response to the invention of chocolate chip cookies, and did not exist before then (Moore). Estimates of Nestlé’s net sales from a chocolate chip cookie-themed cafe in 2011 range between 35 and 40 million dollars, portraying the large financial impact chocolate chip cookies have had on the industry even recently (Dishman). Nestlé even still prints the original recipe for chocolate chip cookies on its bags of semi-sweet chocolate morsels, emphasizing Nestlé’s branding as a symbol of expertise and tradition.

ccc recipe 2 ccc recipe

This display of the recipe showcases how chocolate chip cookies have changed the face of chocolate. The primary purpose of chocolate chips is to create these chocolate chip cookies; thus, by having the recipe on the back of the bag, Nestlé is able to market the use of chocolate chips even more and show directly how to use the chocolate chips. The ownership of the recipe gave Nestlé a unique advantage over other chocolate companies to market the recipe as its own:

ccc ad 1942

This advertisement from 1942, the early days of chocolate chip cookies, mentions the ease of the recipe on the back of the morsels package. The morsels were made specifically for chocolate chip cookies to be made. In this way, Nestlé was able to use the recipe and the concept of the chocolate chip cookie to its advantage.

This advertisement portrays the typical gender roles during the time period as well, and perpetuates these roles. Chocolate chip cookies were usually marketed to the housewife of the family, since the woman was in charge of the home. This ad in particular depicts a woman using her easy chocolate chip cookie recipe in multiple home settings: Bridge Club, her husband’s friends, and other friends. In this way, it claims that the housewife can easily make a strong impression on guests by baking chocolate chip cookies using Nestlé semi-sweet chocolate. As Katherine Parkin claims in her article “Food is Love: Advertising and Gender Roles in Modern America”, “Food advertisers throughout the twentieth century wanted white women to believe that they had the power to influence their families’ identity through their cooking. They…suggested that women should see their purchasing decisions as opportunities to ensure their families’ stability and mobility” (79). This ad exemplifies this notion by offering women a way through chocolate to impress others and keep their husband happy. This ad also substantiates feelings of class dichotomies in America, by suggesting that Toll House cookies will help the housewife entertain guests.

ccc ad 1941

This ad from 1941 is another example of Nestlé Toll House cookies supporting the image of the traditional housewife. The outright claim “Your reputation as a housewife will increase” serves to bolster the separation of the duties of wife to the kitchen. In fact, the initial reason for the chocolate chip cookie popularity on a national scale was its debut on the Betty Crocker Cooking School of the Air radio show (Eric T). This radio show emphasized a woman’s role in the kitchen. Arlene Voski. Avakian and Barbara Haber explain in From Betty Crocker to Feminist Food Studies : Critical Perspectives on Women and Food,  “Betty Crocker often made a point of praising the housewife’s importance… emphasized that good cooking was an achievement in which women could take a great deal of pride” (34). Betty Crocker helped women “feel satisfied with their domestic careers” (Avakian and Haber 34). Thus, the Betty Crocker show in reality gave comfort to women in the home and encouraged the standard gender roles to continue. In this way, chocolate chip cookies added to the housewife standard by being endorsed by Betty Crocker.

The chocolate chip cookie gave comfort to Americans right after the Great Depression (Michaud). The rise of the chocolate chip cookie was propelled even further during World War II (Michaud). During the war, gender roles were especially perpetuated.

An article from 1945, during the war, https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=WLhRAAAAIBAJ&sjid=wWkDAAAAIBAJ&dq=chocolate%20chip%20cookie&pg=6507%2C5325447 , demonstrates how soldiers loved to have chocolate chip cookies sent to them by their loving wife or mother. The article also extends the reach of chocolate chip cookies to the home as well as to soldiers, claiming “it will be just as welcome to the home folks who frequent the table two or three times daily”. Thus, chocolate chip cookies were portrayed to American society as the perfect item for housewives to send abroad as well as bake at home, adding pressure on women to stay in the home.

ccc ad ww2

This advertisement further exemplifies how chocolate chip cookies and World War II interacted to reinforce traditional gender roles. It speaks directly to the housewife, directing her to send chocolate chip cookies to the soldier. Although chocolate needed to be rationed during the war, these ads still encouraged women to use chocolate to make chocolate chip cookies—thus showcasing the importance and popularity of chocolate chip cookies in wartime. The bottom right-hand corner of the advertisement, “Back the Attack with War Bonds”, solidifies the relationship between chocolate chip cookies and support for the war.

After the war, chocolate chip cookies continued to be an iconic American figure. The chocolate chip cookie remained a symbol of the home and by extension, of the woman baking the cookies. Advertisements continued to support this concept. This Pillsbury television advertisement is a fitting example: 

In this video from the 1980s, Drew Barrymore acts as the daughter who needs chocolate chip cookies to improve her mood. The telling aspect of the commercial is that her mother is baking the cookies for her, showcasing a mother-daughter relationship that is built on the mother’s responsibilities in the kitchen and for her kids. There is no father present in the advertisement at all, suggesting that the father is not required to be involved in the kitchen or with the children. Thus, the role of a woman as the caretaker has persisted through the marketing of the chocolate chip cookie.

While advertisements with direct declarations of the woman as a housewife have declined in recent years, the chocolate chip cookie remains emblematic of the traditional American family and the woman in the kitchen. This video is posted on Nestlé Toll House’s current Facebook page: 

This video, although contemporary, still showcases the women and children in the kitchen baking the cookies. The first family is the mother and two kids baking the cookies together, portraying a stereotypical happy American family baking together. The father is not present in the first clip, but later appears when the cookies are finished to eat some—this perpetuates yet again the idea that women simply serve their husbands. The second couple in the video also has the same mentality, since the video shows the woman zipping up the cookie dough package and subsequently the man smiling at her ability to make delicious cookies. There are other aspects of the video that encourage inclusivity, with different ages and races portrayed in the video eating cookies, but the traditional housewife aspect has remained attached to the chocolate chip cookie.

Overall, chocolate chip cookies have made an impact on how our society views the household. The chocolate chip cookie has become a symbol of the doting housewife and companies have perpetuated this idea through advertising and marketing. Chocolate has always played a large role in society, and the fairly recent advent of the chocolate chip cookie has added to our perception of baking as a necessary part of the woman’s role in the family.

Works Cited

Avakian, Arlene Voski., and Haber, Barbara. From Betty Crocker to Feminist Food Studies: Critical Perspectives on Women and Food. Amherst: U of Massachusetts, 2005. Print.

Cooper, Kathleen. “Toll House Cookies: A Secret History.” The Toast. N.p., 05 Dec. 2014. Web. 05 May 2015. <http://the-toast.net/2014/12/05/toll-house-cookies-secret-history/&gt;.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Ad WWII. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 May 2015. <http://peewee.com/log/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Nestlé.jpg&gt;.

“Chocolate Chip Cookies Favorite of Everyone.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 7 Apr. 1945: n. pag. Google News Archive Search. Web. 05 May 2015. <https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=WLhRAAAAIBAJ&sjid=wWkDAAAAIBAJ&dq=chocolate%20chip%20cookie&pg=6507%2C5325447&gt;.

Dishman, Lydia. “The Humble Chocolate-Chip Cookie Goes Global.” Fast Company. N.p., 02 Apr. 2012. Web. 06 May 2015. <http://www.fastcompany.com/1826794/humble-chocolate-chip-cookie-goes-global&gt;.

Moore, Jessie Oleson. The Secret Lives of Baked Goods: Sweet Stories & Recipes for America’s Favorite Desserts. Sasquatch. Print.

Michaud, Jon. “Sweet Morsels: A History of the Chocolate-Chip Cookie – The New Yorker.” The New Yorker. N.p., 19 Dec. 2013. Web. 05 May 2015. <http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/sweet-morsels-a-history-of-the-chocolate-chip-cookie&gt;.

Nestlé Cookie Ad 1941. Digital image. N.p., 1941. Web. 5 May 2015. <http://www.atticpaper.com/proddetail.php?prod=1941-Nestlés-cocoa-ad-toll-house-cookies&gt;.

Nestlé Cookie Ad 1942. Digital image. N.p., 4 Sept. 2014. Web. 5 May 2015. <http://culinarylore.wdfiles.com/local–files/food-history%3Awhere-did-Nestlé-get-toll-house-cookies-name/early-chocolate-chip-ad.jpg&gt;.

Nestlé Cookie Recipe. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 May 2015. <http://pixgood.com/Nestlé-chocolate-chip-cookie-recipe.html&gt;.

Nestle Toll House Facebook VideoFacebook. Nestle Toll House, 4 Nov. 2014. Web. 6 May 2015. <https://www.facebook.com/TollHouse/videos/vb.143683938853/10152911857563854/?type=2&theater&gt;.

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

Stef. “The First Chocolate Cookie.” Cupcake Project. N.p., 28 Nov. 2014. Web. 05 May 2015. <http://www.cupcakeproject.com/2014/11/the-first-chocolate-cookie.html&gt;.

T, Eric. “Where Did Nestlé Get the Name ‘Toll House Cookies’ for Its Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe?” Culinarylore.com. N.p., 4 Sept. 2014. Web. 05 May 2015. <http://www.culinarylore.com/food-history:where-did-Nestlé-get-toll-house-cookies-name&gt;.

Vintage 80’s Drew Barrymore Pillsbury Chocolate Chip Cookies Commercial. Youtube. Tracy80sgirl, 17 July 2009. Web. 5 May 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRBWBwCYqjU&gt;.

Dandelion Chocolate, Ethical Chocolate Producer

The chocolate industry is a complex and intricate realm with layer upon layer of details and processes, all of which can be examined in a scholarly and ethical context. Chocolate from the often discussed “Big Chocolate” companies, such as Hershey and Mars, is too commonly consumed with no thought of the route through which it reached the market. When consumers have begun to question where their chocolate bars (as well as other foodstuffs), they have often found that Big Chocolate is problematic from the production of cacao beans to marketing of their product and every step in between. However, as the practices of these large companies have been revealed to the public, there has been a new movement of small-batch chocolatiers whose goal is to simplify the chocolate making process and ensure fairness for both the producers and the consumers. One such company is Dandelion Chocolate, a small chocolate factory that began operation in San Francisco in the last five years. The following video is from the company’s website and provides an overview of their history and their process.

This video will be dissected in detail later on, but at surface level, one can notice that everyone involved in the company feels compelled to make chocolate the “right” way. They use only two ingredients in their chocolate and source their beans from farms they’ve personally visited and assessed. The Dandelion Chocolate model presents a solution to nearly all of the ethical concerns of the modern chocolate industry by working directly with farmers to achieve fair wages, by taking a genuine marketing approach that does not rely on sexism and objectification to sell their product, and by focusing on the taste of the actual cacao instead of adding unnecessary ingredients.

A fundamental concern in the modern chocolate industry is the treatment of the farmers who produce cacao beans. For many Big Chocolate companies that source their beans from Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, or other West African nations, this is a serious problem. While the chocolate companies may not be solely at fault, cacao farmers in these nations are struggling to get by, despite cacao being the foremost export of the region. In Ghana, specifically, Mikell claims that a lack of state support in the form of subsidies or price incentives, along with the failure of producer prices to keep pace with real prices, has led to nearly unlivable wages for farmers (250). Additionally, a lack of diversity in Ghana’s exports means that the vast majority of the working class is forced to put its fate directly in the hands of the Big Chocolate industry (Mikell 250). However, the poor wages for cacao farmers is far from the full extent of the unethical nature of the industry. An often ignored fact of labor in many cacao-producing countries is the exploitation of children in farming. Carol Off discusses this phenomenon, stating, “As I look at the young faces, the questions in their eyes are the measure of a vast gulf between the children who eat chocolate on their way to school in North America and those who have no school at all, who must, from childhood, work to survive” (8). This quote makes it clear that while American children are blissfully enjoying their Hershey’s bars, children in West African cacao-producing regions are forced to work to survive. Off goes on to discuss accounts of boys as young as 9 years old travelling to areas in which they have no relatives and working on cacao farms, sometimes without pay (121). These practices are nominally being addressed internationally by such agreements as the Harken-Engel Protocol. However, there has been a distinct lack of enforcement of such agreements and child labor and slavery still exist in the chocolate industry. An investigation by the BBC in Mali has concluded that not only are children choosing to work on cacao farms, they are being kidnapped and sold into slavery (Hawksley). One child who was freed from his slavery on a cacao farm claimed, “People who are drinking chocolate or coffee are drinking [child slave’s] blood” (Hawksley). If the chocolate industry does not do something to prevent these practices, they may never change and the lives of the rural working class in West African cacao-producing nations may never improve.

This is where companies like Dandelion Chocolate are helping to improve the ethical practices of the chocolate industry worldwide. Dandelion’s website claims that before purchasing any beans, they travel to the farm, examine their process, and negotiate fair prices for their work. The site claims, “We pay a premium far above the world market price and work to strengthen our relationships year after year in order to maintain our collective commitment to sharing the best and most distinctive cacao” (Our Beans).  This practice not only ensures that the owners of Dandelion Chocolate would notice harmful labor conditions, but it cuts out any middlemen that would pull from the income of the farmers. Dandelion has no “Fair Trade” seal, but Deena Shanker explains that a “Fair Trade” certification can cost the farm thousands of dollars. Instead of simply looking for a “Fair Trade” seal, consumers should search for the shortest supply chain to ensure the farmers are truly receiving all of the money the company is spending (Shanker). Dandelion Chocolate sports the shortest supply chain possible, a direct connection between farm and factory, suggesting that they may truly be an ethical solution to the current practices of the chocolate industry.

Another well-documented problem with the chocolate industry is the use of gendered stereotypes and sexual objectification in their advertisements. Dhanyashree writes, “Among the various forms of mass communication, advertising is often condemned as the most sinful when it comes to perpetuating sexism and exploiting sexuality” (117-118). Dhanyashree goes on to explain that women’s bodies are a proven, effective way to sell products, but corporations should not perpetuate this culture of objectification. Such advertisements are seen every day by the American consumer and are the primary mode of selling chocolate in the country. For example, in the following advertisement for Godiva chocolate, the consumer hardly notices the chocolate, as the sexually posed woman is the centerpiece of the image.

Dandelion Chocolate, however, does not use any such practices in their marketing strategy. In the above video, there is no discernable difference between the male and female employees of the company. All genders appear to be equally important in the production process and the focus is on the actual product, not the people in the video. Additionally, in all of the images found on the company website, Dandelion Chocolate appears to focus nearly exclusively on their unique chocolate making process for marketing. Below is a typical image from the website which shows men and women visiting a cacao farm and learning about how they beans are produced. Dandelion avoids the use of sexualized and targeted marketing, maintaining its ethical status from production to advertising.

One potentially problematic aspect of the Dandelion marketing campaign is that in the video shown above, nearly every featured employee is white. This is problematic because it may, in some ways, exclude black Americans and other people of color. However, while this remains problematic for other reasons, it may simply be that the demographics of this area of San Francisco necessitate a mostly white employee population. Dandelion Chocolate can be said to have an ethical marketing strategy in that they focus on the production of their chocolate instead of distracting the consumer with sexualized visuals and ideas.

One of the more minor ethical problems of Big Chocolate in the modern world is the bastardization of the chocolate flavor. The majority of chocolate consumed in the United States contains a surprisingly small amount of cocoa. In addition to cocoa, sugar, and milk, a traditional Hershey’s bar contains cocoa butter, milk fat, soy, and “natural flavor” (Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar). Additionally, as is mentioned in Dandelion Chocolate’s video, industrial chocolate companies tend to over roast their beans to standardize the taste of every chocolate bar they produce. Much like wine or coffee, chocolate can have a quality of terroir, hosting a different taste in chocolate with ingredients from different regions. Bill Nesto explains, “The key circumstance that obstructs the expression of terroir in chocolate is the distance, both real and conceptual, between the farmer growing cacao and the factory that transforms the cacao into chocolate” (132). Thus, when the beans used by Big Chocolate companies have to travel through several different people and companies before reaching the factory, they lose their distinctive regional taste. Dandelion Chocolate, however, once again provides a solution to these problems. Every chocolate bar Dandelion produces contains 70% cocoa and 30% sugar. Thus, Dandelion removes all extraneous ingredients and standardizes their bars such that the only differences in taste come from the differences in bean origin. These differences are celebrated instead of hidden and each bar includes a label stating where the bean originated. Dandelion Chocolate seeks to provide its consumers with true, ethical chocolate, and is consistently transparent about its process and ideals.

Dandelion Chocolate is a part of a new wave of chocolate producers that seek to achieve ethical business and marketing practices. This trend opposes the traditional chocolate companies, five of which control to vast majority of the chocolate market. Dandelion Chocolate may be inaccessible to many consumers due to its small scale and high prices, but the chocolate industry would be greatly improved if more companies were to follow the Dandelion model. The high price of their chocolate bars is due in part to the high prices they agree on with their source farms, a justifiable reason for the cost jump between Dandelion and large companies like Hershey. Dandelion Chocolate provides genuine and tangible solutions to the primary ethical issues that have been brought forth in the chocolate industry in recent years and is an excellent model for the future of the industry.

Works Cited

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

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

Nesto, Bill. “Terroir in the World of Chocolate.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture 10.1 (2013): 131-135. Print.

Dhanyashree, C.M. “Objectification of Women in Advertisements: Some Ethical Issues.” Research Journal of English Language and Literature 3.1 (2015): 117-120. Print.

“Our Beans.” Dandelion Chocolate. n.p., n.d. Web. 2 May 2015.

Shanker, Deena. “A Guide to Ethical Chocolate.” Grist. Grist Magazine, inc., 13 Feb. 2013. Web. 2 May 2015.

Hawksley, Humphrey. “Mali’s Children in Chocolate Slavery.” BBC News. BBC, 12 Apr. 2001. Web. 2 May 2015.

“Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar.” Hershey. The Hershey Company, n.d. Web. 4 May 2015.

Advertising, Psychology, and Fair Trade

It is interesting, and often undervalued, what factors go into the decision-making process when consumers buy chocolate. Although it is often a subconscious process, a typical chocolate consumer unknowingly takes many elements into account before purchasing a chocolate bar. Undoubtedly, factors such as price comparisons, taste and ingredients, consumer preferences, and reputation of chocolate companies play a dominant role in these decisions. This partially explains how companies like the Big 5 have been so successful in integrating their products into many populations. These companies pride themselves in creating brand loyalty, or a “cradle to grave” attitude among consumers (Martin, Lecture 12). This was evident in Hershey’s attempt to become the iconic American chocolate by aligning their advertisements with American values (Martin, Lecture 12). Furthermore, they have been able to maximize profits by diminishing production costs, allowing them to sell their products at a lower price. As a result, these companies and their products have become globalized and they are all known to have a reputation of producing easily accessible, affordable chocolate.

However, a growing concern in the chocolate industry surrounds the cacao-chocolate supply chain and emphasizing the necessity for ‘ethically based cacao’ (Barrientos, 2006). This term applies to a broad range of topics including environment sustainability, fair treatment of cacao farmers, and direct contact with workers (Barrientos, 2006). These concerns arose mainly from speculations of unfair treatment of workers and exploitation of children in West African cacao regions, such as Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire (Martin, Lecture 15). In response, various certifications have arisen that attempt to motivate chocolate companies to engage in these efforts. The three main ones are organic, fair trade, and direct trade certifications. Fair trade and direct trade certifications are similar in that they both address fair treatment and pay of farmers (Barrientos, 2006). However, some argue that direct trade is a better alternative to fair trade as it addresses many of the critiques associated with fair trade. Organic certification, on the other hand, stipulates that produce has to have been grown without the use of pesticides or other fertilizers (Martin, Lecture 18).

There are now multiple chocolate companies that make a conscious effort to obtain these certifications. They identify themselves as ‘ethically sourced’ and attempt to target consumers who wish to purchase chocolate that not only tastes good, but also is ethically produced (Barrientos, 2006). However, one of the main problems with these companies is that their products are often more expensive since their production costs are higher and they are paying a premium to farmers (Martin, Lecture 18). Furthermore, there has been some controversy over the certifications themselves and whether there is accountability in some of their promises (Martin, Lecture 18). This raises some interesting questions: are consumers thinking about these issues when they make purchasing decisions? What are the tradeoffs between cost and ethics? And most importantly, what influences consumers to choose ethically sourced chocolate bars over other chocolate bars?

The challenges associated with motivating consumers to buy ethically sourced chocolate is a major barrier that companies face when producing certified chocolate bars. In order to make an impact in relation to the cacao-chocolate supply chain, the consumer has to be willing to purchase the products. The efforts of fair and direct trade chocolate companies don’t summate to anything if no one is purchasing their products. If one were to turn to the success of the Big 5 chocolate companies, they have attracted consumers primarily through advertising and marketing strategies. Since direct trade chocolate companies have additional barriers, such as inflated costs, marketing their products is even more critical to their success. As such, I would argue that the sole placement of the term ‘ethically sourced’ on a chocolate bar is not sufficient to sway the typical chocolate consumer to buy their products over a ‘more affordable’ option. Instead, these companies need to both focus on ethically based initiatives and also enable a way to connect with consumers to establish the same brand loyalty that is seen among the Big 5 chocolate companies. Thus, when it comes to influencing consumer decisions, the most impactful companies will be able to both prioritize direct trade relationships over profits as well as find an effective way to advertise their brand to appeal to the general consumer.

The importance of advertising can be assessed by closely examining a direct trade chocolate company, and gauging its overall impact on both the main issues of fair trade and of gaining consumer interest. If these two components are addressed, direct trade chocolate companies will be more successful and influential overall.

Taza Chocolate Factory is situated in Somerville, MA and was founded in 2005 by Alex Whitmore (“TAZA chocolate”, 2012). Taza chocolate-makers pride themselves in producing “stone ground, organic chocolate” (“TAZA chocolate”, 2012). From the beginning, Taza’s mission was “to make and share stone ground chocolate that is seriously good and fair for all” (“TAZA chocolate”, 2012).

The process of making Taza chocolate is relatively unique compared to other US companies. First, they use solely organic products and aim to include as few ingredients as possible. This is meant to enhance the flavors of cacao as well as promote environment sustainability (“TAZA chocolate”, 2012). Their chocolate is also unconched, giving it a grainy/course texture. This is interesting as most chocolate these days undergoes a conching process, so this aspect creates a distinctive tasting experience for consumers.

Taza chocolate was the first in the USA to establish direct trade certification. They have partnered with La Red Guaconejo, a cooperative of cacao farmers that is based in the Dominican Republic (“TAZA chocolate”, 2012). They pay a premium to these farmers upon the sale of cacao beans and make an effort to visit these cacao farms at least once per year. In order to ensure accountability, Taza chocolate produces a transparency report once a year that provides a detailed account of their impact on the cacao industry (“TAZA chocolate”, 2012). This report is highly visual and makes it easy for consumers to understand.

Some of the more valuable components of these reports are the pictures of Taza workers with the cacao farmers. These pictures really emphasize Taza’s direct relationship with cacao farmers and presents the farmers as valuable members of their business. Since the challenges associated with cacao farming are often ignored or not revealed to consumers, these pictures provide meaningful insight to a crucial element of the chocolate-making process.

As indicated, Taza chocolate claims to be ethically sourced in two respects. First, they claim to only use organic ingredients in their recipes and second, they are direct trade certified. What makes Taza chocolate stand out, however, is their high accountability and transparency to consumers, which builds a reputation in the product. While Taza’s efforts address some of the cacao-supply chain issues, the problem of attaining consumer interest still remains.

There has certainly been more interest in buying ethically sourced products. As Low and colleagues (2005) state, fair trade sales are continually growing and it is evolving to become more mainstream. They describe this shift as an ethical consumer movement, where the consumer has the ability to create positive change by choosing one good over another (Low & Davenport, 2005). Given this rise in popularity, they emphasize the importance of building fair trade brands and marketing their products to consumers (Low & Davenport, 2005). On average, a typical consumer spends about 4 seconds examining a shelf before making a purchasing decision (Low & Davenport, 2005). In this time, they are likely not considering the details of each company, but rather choosing products based on the labels and taste preferences.

While people enjoy the idea of being an ethical consumer, they are not always willing to incur the additional costs associated with it. An average Taza chocolate bar sells for about $7.50, whereas a regular-sized Hershey’s bar sells for about $1.00 (“TAZA Chocolate”, 2012; “The Hershey’s Company”, n.d.). This is a significant gap between prices. This means that there has to be additional incentives to purchase fair trade chocolate. As such, in order to compete with the sales of the Big 5 companies, fair trade companies like Taza need to be able to effectively advertise their products to the public.

If we look to the success of companies like Hershey’s, it has become such an iconic brand in the USA because they are able to align themselves with mainstream values. This is commonly displayed in their advertisements as they integrate elements of taste and pleasure to create a sense of desire among consumers. That way, consumers are primed to crave Hershey’s chocolate before they even step into the store.

For example, in their S’mores Around The Campfire commercial, it takes a popular social gathering and makes it seem more appealing with the addition of a Hershey’s chocolate bar.

The ad features adults and children, all smiling, and sitting around a campfire enjoying a s’more that is made complete with a Hershey bar. It plays on elements of taste by capturing people biting into the s’more as well as showing close up shots of the construction of the s’more. Even though it’s only a 15 second clip, it builds an association with a pleasurable event that consumers can draw on when making purchasing decisions.

If fair trade chocolate companies could integrate similar marketing strategies, consumers could build positive associations with the product, which would ultimately increase the likelihood of buying their products. As of now, Taza chocolate company does market their brand in some respects. They have online videos that are meant to increase brand awareness and make consumers aware of their story.

These videos are targeted toward the ethical consumer and are meant primarily to be educational. In the first video, the viewer is taken through a brief story of the creation of Taza chocolate. This video is interesting as there is no script, just festive music playing in the background.

The second video, on the other hand, focuses on children and educates them on the processes that go into making the chocolate. Both these videos were likely created with the intention of raising awareness and maintaining their image of transparency.

However, both these videos lack the psychological elements that implicitly draw consumers to chocolate. David Benton (2004) states that the consumption and craving for chocolate is highly psychological. Eating chocolate is a very emotional process and is often craved due to its association with mood elevation (Benton, 2004). Given this knowledge, it seems as though the implementation of psychological elements in advertising is necessary to attract a wide consumer-base.

In sum, the increase in direct trade initiatives is positively impacting the cacao-supply chain in numerous ways. Companies, such as Taza Chocolate, have been able to generate more interest in ethically sourced cacao and sustain relationships with their cacao-supplying nations. However, while fair trade companies excel at portraying these efforts to consumers, they lack in their ability to directly relate and incentivize their brands over others. Since marketing and advertising has a tremendous effect on consumer purchasing decisions, improving in this area would likely lessen the discrepancy in profits between the Big 5 chocolate companies and fair trade companies. Thus, the ability to influence consumer decisions plays a big role in the success of chocolate companies, and is an area that is lacking in the fair trade industry.

Works Cited

  1. Barrientos, S. (2006). Transformation of Global Food: Opportunities and Challenges for Fair and Ethical Trade. In Ethical sourcing in the global food system. Sterling, VA: Earthscan.
  2. Benton, D. (2004). The Biology and Psychology of Chocolate Craving. Nutrition, Brain and Behavior, 205-218.
  3. Chocolate Products, Recipes, Nutrition Information. (n.d.). Retrieved May 1, 2015, from http://www.hersheys.com
  4. Low, W., & Davenport, E. (2006). Has the medium (roast) become the message?: The ethics of marketing fair trade in the mainstream. International Marketing Review, 494-511. Retrieved May 1, 2015, from http://www.emeraldinsight.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/doi/full/10.1108/02651330510624354
  5. Martin, C. (2015, March 9). The rise of big chocolate and race for the global market. AAAs 119x: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food . Lecture conducted from , Cambridge.
  6. Martin, C. (2015, March 25). Modern Day Slavery. AAAS 119x: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food . Lecture conducted from , Cambridge.
  7. Martin, C. (2015, April 6). Alternative trade and virtuous localization/globalization. AAAS 119x: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food . Lecture conducted from , Cambridge.
  8. Taza Chocolate | stone ground chocolate. (2012). Retrieved May 1, 2015, from http://www.tazachocolate.com

Multimedia Sources

  1. Curious George Visits The Chocolate Factory, 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MY_wD10tszA
  1. Hershey’s “S’mores Around the Campfire” Commercial, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGRAmQeu2xo
  2. Taza Workers and Cacao Farmers, Image http://www.tazachocolate.com/documents/image/DirectTrade.jpg
  1. The Taza Chocolate Story, 2012.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tcA51tUOxU

Askinosie Chocolate: Fair and Direct without Labels

With the growing international popularity of chocolate, the number of chocolate companies has increased dramatically and the competition between each has become more and more fierce. Along with the growth in chocolate companies, the number of chocolate certification organizations has also increased, to a point where the numerous labels are confusing to the normal American consumer. Today, chocolate companies can choose from a wide array of certifications to apply for, including Fair Trade USA, Fairtrade UK, Fair for Life, Rainforest Alliance, Direct Trade, USDA Organic and more. A question we should consider is: are these fair trade certifications actually creating the social impact they say they are in the chocolate industry and around the world? In considering this question, we will take a look at the history and business of one craft chocolate company without any certifications – Askinosie Chocolate. Askinosie Chocolate, through their direct relationship with farmers, is able to have a sustainable impact on the chocolate growing community and their own local community while maintaining the high quality of its products, without the distraction of any third-party certifications or labels.

The term “fair trade” was defined by the international Fair Trade Federation in 2003 and is as follows: “Fair Trade is a movement promoting trading partnerships based on dialogue, transparency and respect, and that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading condition to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers.” (Witkowski) In order to achieve its goals, the Fair Trade movement relies on secondary organizations, such as the International Fair Trade Association, Fair Trade Federation, or Ten Thousand Villages, to implement an auditing system for supply chains to ensure they meet the standards. However, the goals of Fair Trade are broad and vague, and the standards of each Fair Trade organization can vary widely. For example, Rainforest Alliance, a non-profit, claims to certify fair trade products, but does not include standards for compensating producers above market price and in actuality has worked closely with Kraft and Chiquita, big food corporations, which may lead to competing interests (Witkowski).

According to a 2009 study, fair trade consumers tended to value universalism, for example unity with nature and protecting the environment, as well as self-direction, or freedom and control over their own individual decisions, more than non-consumers of fair trade products (Doran). This study demonstrated that the values the fair trade movement promotes are important to a sizeable number of consumers. However, whether or not purchasing all products certified by a certain “fair trade” label is productively achieving those values is a question for further research.

A sample of different fair trade certifying organizations

As the market for fair trade products has grown, it seems the way in which the original values have been manifested have changed, and not necessarily for the better. Because of the numerous fair trade certifications and the incongruent nature of their standards and information provided to consumers, consumers should question the true value of any fair trade certified product they choose to purchase (Ballet). The case of Askinosie Chocolate is an exemplary model for transparency and social impact in the chocolate industry today.

Askinosie Chocolate was founded in 2006 by Shawn Askinosie, originally as a new hobby to replace his stressful criminal defense lawyer day job. Like some of the big chocolate companies today, for example, Hershey’s, Askinosie Chocolate started out as a family business. Shawn began by making chocolate in his office kitchen, perfecting recipes with his wife, and then managing the business side with his high school aged daughter. As the company grew, it made a noticeable effort to maintain the personal touch in their products, as evidenced through the personal stories of Shawn’s family members who are involved in the business as well as their business practices.

One major practice that sets Askinosie Chocolate apart from its bean-to-bar competitors is their commitment to direct trade with farmers. Unlike its competitors, Askinosie Chocolate has not sought fair trade certification or established a third party organization to certify its direct trade practices. In fact, Askinosie Chocolate doesn’t use any type of certification for its cocoa or chocolate at all (their sugar, however, is certified organic). Shawn himself travels to the farm sites and establishes partnerships with farmers through acquaintances and business partners, and then evaluates the beans and the cacao farming process himself in person. By avoiding a broker/middleman, Askinosie Chocolate is able to incorporate their value of cooperation and transparency throughout their supply chain.

Askinosie Chocolate’s direct trade model is especially beneficial for the producers of cacao because producers are paid a higher price than the set fair trade commodity price as well as 10% of the company’s profits every year (Attoun). Because the beans are routinely tested before providing the bonus profits, the producers have an incentive to produce the highest quality cacao beans for Askinosie Chocolate. Instead of relying on a middleman to inspect quality, Askinosie Chocolate sends a company representative, often Shawn himself, to visit the sites and to meet the farmers while drawing up a contract and developing a partnership with them (“Askinosie Chocolate”).

Although fair trade programs originally set out to shorten the supply chain that causes brands profit disproportionately compared to farmers, in reality, fair trade itself has become a cumbersome instrument like those it has tried to change.

Cacao producing farmers often only get 3% of the profit from a chocolate bar

In contrast with fair trade certification programs, which often require the farmers and cooperatives to front a cost of anywhere between $2,500 – $10,000 for annual inspection and certification fees, the Askinosie Chocolate model doesn’t cost the farmers money because it is a business partnership (Tellman). The combination of these yearly fees as well as the fixed commodity price for fair trade chocolate inhibit small farmers from participating in the system and limit the impact of fair trade overall. Askinosie Chocolate on the other hand plays a role in each step of the supply chain, ensuring that the business runs smoothly and that the partnership with farmers is fair at every single step. From finding the beans, building partnerships, shipping the beans, and actually making the chocolate, Askinosie Chocolate personally touches each part of their production process.

Since the founding of the company, Askinosie Chocolate asserts that they have been “weaving social responsibility into everything we do” (“Askinosie Chocolate”), and that company value is evidenced by their numerous philanthropic ventures and careful business endeavors.

Beginning in 2009, Askinosie Chocolate started Chocolate University, an18-month program for local high school students to learn about the bean-to-bar company, beginning from the bar that is completed in their town and ending with a visit to Tanzania – a site of one farm where Askinosie gets their beans (“Askinosie Chocolate: Bringing”).

This program is a way for the company to empower the youth in the community to become global citizens while teaching them about the ethics of the chocolate business and experience first-hand the types of decisions chocolate companies may face, for example, choosing a farm at which to source cacao beans. Before the trip to a cacao source, students in the program research the needs of the community and raise funds in order to address those needs and create a social impact during their visit.

In addition to their community impact, Askinosie weaves their value of transparency into every part of their business. By creating personal connections with the farmers, Shawn is able to put a face to the product, and the company literally uses farmer’s faces as images on some of their products.

Askinosie Chocolate bars featuring images of actual farmers

The personal touch on the marketing of the chocolate bars indicates to consumers that there are real people behind the products they are buying, and tempt the already socially-minded consumer to purchase even more. In addition, Askinosie Chocolate claims that their products are “100% traceable”, and their website has a tool for consumers to input the identification code of their product to track where individual ingredients actually come from (“Askinosie Chocolate”).

Besides enriching the lives of consumers, Askinosie Chocolate takes care to also educate their farmers on their products. When Shawn visits farms to do yearly inspections, he will bring with him official sales numbers and even samples of the finished chocolate to allow the farmers to actually taste what their raw food product can create. By being transparent in their partnership with farmers and their relationship with consumers, Askinosie Chocolate is solving the problem fair trade certifications face today of unclear communication/information.

In conclusion, Askinosie Chocolate is able to have a sustainable impact on the cacao growing community through their equitable direct-trade relationship with farmers, and company value of transparency by foregoing cumbersome fair trade certification programs. In addition, Askinosie Chocolate empowers its own local community through its social initiatives, such as Chocolate University. However, the question of how to scale their impact remains. As we have seen with fair trade certification, although it began with ethical values and goals, as the programs expanded, the desire for profit and larger impact outweighed the earlier ideals and distracted the movement from its origins. The direct trade movement and the family owned craft chocolate business should also be aware of the potential dangers of scaling while still maintaining its product quality.

Multimedia Sources

Fair Trade Organizations: https://chocolateclass.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/ebc26-1411662799381.jpg

Shawn Askinosie: https://youtu.be/utic2PaXjwE

Chocolate Bar Infographic: https://nancydrew4613.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/screen-shot-2014-05-08-at-2-04-31-am.png

Chocolate University: https://youtu.be/zAbbzvrIKTk

Askinosie Chocolate Bars: http://www.marketsofnewyork.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/EJL-140219-1007-Askinosie-Chocolates-2014-02-19-at-00-00-00-600×400.jpg

Works Cited

“Askinosie Chocolate: Bringing The World Together One Bean At A Time.” Markets of New York City. N.p., 18 June 2014. Web. 05 May 2015. <http://www.marketsofnewyork.com/2014/06/askinosie-chocolate-bringing-the-world-together-one-bean-at-a-time/&gt;.

“Askinosie Chocolate.” Home Page. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2015. <http://www.askinosie.com/&gt;.

Attoun, Marti. “A Chocolate Factory with a Higher Purpose.” The Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor, 6 Nov. 2014. Web. 05 May 2015. <http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Making-a-difference/Change-Agent/2014/1106/A-chocolate-factory-with-a-higher-purpose&gt;.

Ballet, Jèrôme. “Fair Trade and the Depersonalization of Ethics.” Journal of Business Ethics 92.Supplement 2: FAIR TRADE IN DIFFERENT NATIONAL CONTEXT (2010): 317-30. JSTOR. Web. 05 May 2015.

Doran, Caroline Josephine. “The Role of Personal Values in Fair Trade Consumption.” Journal of Business Ethics 84.4 (2009): 549-63. JSTOR. Web. 05 May 2015.

Tellman, Beth. “Not Fair Enough: Historic and Institutional Barriers to Fair Trade Coffee in El Salvador.” Journal of Latin American Geography 10.2 (2011): 107-27. JSTOR. Web. 05 May 2015.

Witkowski, Terrence H. “Fair Trade Marketing: An Alternative System for Globalization and Development.” Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice 13.4, Globalization and Its Marketing Challenges (2005): 22-33. JSTOR. Web. 05 May 2015.

A Candy bar from Mars Perpetuates Stereotypes of Men on Earth: An Analysis of Snickers Ads

Figure 1
Figure 1

In 1930, the midst of the great depression, the Mars Company released a new brand of candy bar—Snickers[1]. Named after Frank Mar’s favorite horse, the bar was a result of three years of experimentation with chocolate, peanuts, caramel, and nougat. Over the next few decades, Snickers would become one of the most successfully marketed and sold candy bars around the globe. By 1984, Snickers was declared the official snack food of the Olympic Games, leading to an advertising campaign which featured athletes such as John Siman, pictured above, holding a snickers which created an association between Olympic success and Snickers candy bars[2]. The advertisement emphasized that Snickers was ‘packed with peanuts’ and ‘really satisfies’, creating the illusion that the legumes in the bar added significant nutritional value. It targeted the younger generation, pushing them to believe that if they ate the candy, they would end up an Olympian, just like water polo legend John Siman even though chocolate has largely contributed to obesity in America (Lecture 19).

The marketing of Snickers’ “peanut power” persevered through the following decades. In 2010, Snickers adopted a new campaign slogan: ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry – so have yourself a Snickers and be yourself again’[3]. A clever rebirth of their original advertising campaign, this slogan carried with it direct reference to the nutritional and nourishing nature of Snickers bars. Instead of turning into professional athletes, however, they appealed to the everyday average Joe. Yet, despite comedic intentions, the lighthearted campaign quickly turned offensive, boasting obvious male gender stereotypes.

Figure 2
Figure 2

For instance, the advertisement on the left pictures an average gruff male construction worker likely in his forties, smiling and seemingly yelling. Above him, the words ‘When I’m Hungry, I greet attractive women with polite silence’ are printed in bold on a chocolate-brown background. Along with the new campaign slogan plastered at the bottom of the ad and the 1984 tag line ‘Snickers satisfies’, the quote plays directly into harmful stereotypes of blue collar workers across America while perpetuating the notion that Snickers bars have nutritional benefits.

Interestingly, the advertisement appears empowering at first glance. The words are refreshing in the context of a male-dominated blue collar environment. It isn’t often that a bald, overweight, goateed white male would insight gender empowerment on the streets of an urban landscape. However, the simple addition of the Snickers slogan negates any gender anti-objectification, and suggests that this isn’t commonplace for construction workers. More generally, it implies that it isn’t acceptable or normal behavior for men to ‘greet attractive women with polite silence’. Instead, men are expected to be loud and rude to women passing by. But why present an offensive male gender stereotype?

Usually women are the objects of chocolate advertising, and chocolate companies are able to target both men and women through sexual commercials with women losing control over chocolate[4]. In this advertisement, the losing control aspect is kept intact, but the target demographic has changed. This poster targets everyone, not just moms, kids, or women, but people from all walks of life. What person isn’t familiar the stereotype of men calling out transparent compliments to women on the street? Yet, this is the root problem in marketing today. Companies advertise to convey universal generalizations to appeal to an audience’s sense of humor, but doing this only perpetuates the problem. Perhaps advertisements should be more like the one to the right, a critical re-imagining of the first 2010 ad.

Figure 4In this advertisement, a handsome young man flips the previous advertisement’s message 180 degrees. The text above his head reads ‘When I am Hungry, I greet attractive women with rude cat calls’, implying that it shouldn’t be expected for men to act rude and inappropriate around attractive – or just any – women on the street. It doesn’t emasculate the idea of being polite or play into a stereotype, but rather indulges the idea of a world without the objectification of women. Using the same slogan as the original advertisement but different text, the new ad does not rely on the use of comedy to appeal to a wider audience. Instead, it earnestly addresses a societal gender incongruence with undertones of comedy due to the somewhat awkward nature of the man in the picture. The goofy glasses add a level of imperfection to the man making him identifiable, while the text does not play into the blue collar stereotype seen in the first ad.

Ultimately, sexism and gender stereotypes are still prevalent in the chocolate industry. This is shown in the 2010 Snickers ad campaign in an obvious attempt to, as Robertson proposes, “position [consumers] in relation to the product as gendered, classed, and raced beings”[5]. Marketers rely on these preconceived notions to appeal to audiences, and Snickers is no different. Hopefully the next ad campaign will not rely on categorizing men or women, but will introduce a new more positive message for consumers of Snickers bars.

[1] Goddard, Leslie. Chicago’s Sweet Candy History. Arcadia Publishing, 2012.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Schultz, E.J. “Behind the Snickers Campaign That Launched a Global Comeback.” Advertising Age. N.p, N.d. Web. http://adage.com/article/special-report-ana-annual-meeting-2013/snickers-campaign-launched-a-global-comeback/244593/. Retrieved 10 April 2015.

[4] Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester:

Manchester University Press, 2009.

[5] Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester:

Manchester University Press, 2009.

Works Cited

Figure 1) http://2.bp.blogspot.com/__iUWLJiDfYg/SZXmUHGipHI/AAAAAAAAKLk/qky50kxtTpA/s400/Siman_Snickers_Ad1.jpg

Figure 2)  http://www.arenakain.com/You-re-Not-You

Figure 3) User created content

Gianatasio, David. “Construction Workers Yell Messages of Empowerment to Women in Snickers Stunt.” AdWeek. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

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

Schultz, E.J. “Behind the Snickers Campaign That Launched a Global Comeback.” Advertising Age. N.p, N.d. Web. http://adage.com/article/special-report-ana-annual-meeting- 2013/snickers-campaign-launched-a-global-comeback/244593/. Retrieved 10 April 2015.

The Innocent, the Grotesque, and the True “Dark” Side of Chocolate  

While advertisements and marketing are meant to draw positive attention to their products, oftentimes they only cause controversy and scandal. Marketing promotions are often riddled with sexist, racist, or classist undertones that overshadow the true meaning of the advertisements; one of the biggest offenders is the food industry, specifically advertisement for sweets and chocolates. Chocolate marketing often relies on portraying women and children as innocent and sweet creatures that turn sinful and corrupt from the sensual tastes of chocolate. However, sometimes these campaigns can backfire, instead causing controversy and scandal that overshadow the initial intents of the advertisements.

Chocolate is a highly sexualized product ever since its popularization as a food product in the early European periods. Even before print adverts of chocolate and its mass production with the growth of large chocolate producers, chocolate was already a food targeted at women. In anecdotes that spread in the in the 1800s, women were portrayed as weak to the ways of chocolate; in Chiapas, Mexico, women would have to interrupt religious ceremonies in order to consume chocolate midday (Robertson, 68). These types of stories imply that women are unable to sustain or fuel themselves without chocolate, going so far as to suggest that they cannot perform basic functions (such as religious Mass) without taking time off to consume chocolate.

Furthermore, these stories paint pictures of women as unable to control themselves in a chocolate-induced rage. Continuing the story above, the women of Chiapas supposedly poisoned the bishop for not allowing them to eat their chocolate (Robertson 68). This paints the image of the typical “chocolate consuming” stereotype of women, creatures unable to control themselves around chocolate, and induced to perform sinful and carnal acts, such as killing, to get what the sweets that they crave. As historian Emma Robertson puts it, “chocolate becomes explicitly associated with sinful temptation in this tale, with women ruthless in its pursuit” (68).

This stereotype of a sinful, craving woman, cultivated by historical anecdotes as old as the history of chocolate in the modern world, persists today stronger than ever. In chocolate commercials, women are still lustful after chocolate. While examples of women depicted with this stereotype abound, this commercial from Nestle in Kazakhstan is particularly representative:

Here, a beautiful woman, happy with a teddy bear gift from her boyfriend, suddenly rips up the cup stuffed animal, and proclaims that it has no almonds or wafers. While this ad might seem harmless and cute, it is a prime example of how chocolate ads depict a woman’s lust and overpowering desire for chocolate. The woman, who is initially cheerful, becomes angry when he finds that she does not receive a sweet treat, leading her to rip up a cute stuffed animal and toss it away with little concern.

While these ads may have tones of sexuality and sinfulness imbued in their images, some ads can take this idea too far. In 2009, an advertisement by Peruvian chocolate company Caribu, produced by the ad agency El Garaje Lowe, generated lots of negative publicity and controversy.


In this print ad, we see an innocent, sweet, smiling young girl playing “kitchen” in her room. However, looking more closely at this ad reveals a truly horrifying scene; the little girl is killing a baby chick by grinding it up in a meat grinder. This innocent scene now looks extremely eerie; the green background of the room becomes creepy, and the girl’s sweet smile suddenly seems perverse and sinister. In the corner of the image, we see the tagline of the image: “The Dark Side of Sweetness”. The dark humor here is revealed; when you give little girls chocolate, their truly “dark” side comes out, and they can be motivated to do horrible things, including killing an animal for fun. While this ad may have intended to be dark humor for the intellectual who could look past the girl’s heinous acts, this ad severely miscalculates how disgusting it is, and is rendered ineffective. People cannot get past the image of a young girl, the usual picture of innocence, killing an animal in a disturbing way, after having consumed chocolate.

This ad attempted to, and failed, to represent a dark humored “dark” side of sweetness; however, what is even more sad and dismaying about this ad is the true “dark” side of the chocolate industry. While ads such as the ones shown above by Caribu and Nestle joke about the sinful acts that chocolate induce, the chocolate industry is suddenly mute at the true sins of the industry regarding child labor practices. In the Cote D’Ivoire, where almost 40% of all cacao beans come from (Mammel), there is a strong prevalence of child labor, where children, 60% of whom are under the age of 14, are forced to toil on cacao farms by their families and “owners” whom their families sell them to. These children make no money, and are often given dangerous and gruesome tasks to do, such as wielding machetes with no protection or hauling bags of cacao for miles (Mammel).


With this truly dark side of chocolate in mind, we decided to rebrand our chocolate advertisement from showing (failed) dark humor to depict the true dark side of chocolate: child labor practices. In our revised ad, the true evils of the chocolate industry are revealed; when the children eat chocolate, they are now directly contributing to the child labor present in the chocolate industry. Their lips are stained with red blood, and they are “whipping” the children laborers, who toil to make them their delicious sweets.

While our ad may not actually sell anything, it instead acts as a PSA for the real dark side of the chocolate industry. Instead of continuing to sell chocolate as a sexualized, passionate, and sometimes sinful delight, we hope with our PSA we can contribute to exposing the true evils of the chocolate industry, and close the gap of knowledge between the fantasy of marketing and advertisements, and the true hardships behind what we eat.


Bear | Heart | Kitten- Nestle Chocolate TV Commercial Ad. Youtube. Youtube, 14 Oct 2014. Web. 10 Apr 2015.

El Garaje Lowe. “Caribú Bitter: Canari.” Ads of the World. N.p., Jan. 2009. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.http://adsoftheworld.com/media/print/caribu_bitter_canari.

Mammel, Mitchell. “Child Slavery: The Bitter Truth behind the Chocolate Industry.” Terry. Nov 2013. Web. 10 Apr 2015. http://www.terry.ubc.ca/2013/11/26/child-slavery-the-bitter-truth-behind-the-chocolate-industry/.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. 1-131. Print.