Tag Archives: Whole Foods Market

Taza Chocolate: A Step in the Right Direction, but Still Room for Improvement

As you have probably discovered when looking through the chocolate display in various retail and grocery stores, five large players dominate the global chocolate market. Their prevalence allows them to dictate the rhetoric and information synthesized by chocolate consumers on a daily basis. However, the industry is fraught with serious issues that these companies are not taking drastic enough steps to solve. Instead, we must look to other companies, although less well known and smaller-scale, that are forging innovative paths to solve these very real problems, in order to learn from them but also recognize where there is room for improvement. One such company is Taza Chocolate. 

 Taza Chocolate is a bean to bar chocolate company based in Somerville, Massachusetts. It was founded in 2005 by CEO Alex Whitmore, who was inspired by the stone ground chocolate he had tasted on a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico. He apprenticed under a molinero in Oaxaca in order to learn how to make and work with traditional Mexican stone mills. The result of these unique mills and minimal processing is chocolate with bolder flavors and a grittier consistency than the smoothness that is usually expected from more mainstream companies. 

Summary of the Taza Chocolate production process

Taza chocolate can be bought online through its website or at Amazon and can be found at retailers such as Whole Foods. According to the Taza Website, “We do things differently. We do things better. We are chocolate pioneers” (Taza Website: Direct Trade). They are pioneers not just because of their unique production process and flavor, but also because of their commitment to addressing the problems that plague the industry today through supply-chain transparency. 

Problems: Slavery, Economics and Gender Inequality

In order to critically analyze Taza’s attempted solutions, it is important to first understand the problems, which unfortunately are not new but rather have plagued the industry for centuries. Slavery was an integral part of chocolate’s history, and can be traced back to the 1500’s when the Spanish Encomienda system forced natives in Mesoamerica to grow cocoa and perform labor without pay. The terrible working conditions and disease spread by the Spaniards ravished the native population, and Africans were brought in to replace them. From 1500-1900, between 10 and 15 million enslaved Africans were transported to the Americas and the Caribbean to grow cocoa and other commodity crops. However, even after slavery was abolished, it continued and continues to plague the industry today, mostly in the form of child labor. The International Labour Organization defines child labor as, “all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery… work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children” (ILO). Carol Off found evidence of such child labor in Cote D’Ivoire, with some farmers or their supervisors “working… young people almost to death. The boys had little to eat, slept in bunkhouses that were locked during the night, and were frequently beaten” (Off, 121). A 2009 study by Tulane corroborated Off’s discoveries when it found that more than half a million children in Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire were working in conditions that violated ILO guidelines as well as national laws on minimum wage and minimum hours (Berlan).

Another prevalent problem is the poverty that many cocoa farmers face, particularly in Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire, due to the economics of cocoa farming. Unlike many northern countries where jobs are salaried, wages for day laborers on farms are “neither guaranteed nor generally regulated” (Leissle, 106). Farm owners only receive cash when they sell their crop; thus, they earn 80% of their annual income in the six months of the main growing season, making budgeting for the rest of the year extremely difficult, especially because many inputs are needed at the start of the growing season when farmers are the lowest on cash. This can result in farmers having to take loans or credit, which often have incredibly high interest rates and can be impossible to pay back. The price fluctuations of chocolate also make it difficult to budget, as anything from bad weather to political turmoil can drastically affect chocolate’s price. Lastly, the prices farmers receive are often too low to support their costs. Farmers rarely sell their product directly to the big chocolate companies, instead selling to middlemen who have more negotiating power and can mislead them. Therefore, even if the price paid for chocolate goes up, there is no guarantee that the farmers actually receive this increase.  As a result of all of these factors, many farmers struggle to make a living.

Finally, gender inequality is an important problem that is often disregarded, in part because literature has minimized the role of women in chocolate production. Women are thought of as having only light and non-essential tasks, when in reality “female labor play[s] a central role in almost every aspect of cocoa production and sale… statistics undoubtedly underestimate the role of women” (Robertson, 100/104). But the industry is male-dominant, which has negative effects on women. For example, social norms dictate that even if women grow the cocoa, men are the ones that actually sell the crop and receive the cash (Leissle, 122). This means not only that women have no proof they are getting the right amount of money, but also that men of the household have control of the cash, which they often use to pay for needs they find most important before distributing the rest, if any, to women and children. Consequently, even though women contribute greatly to chocolate production, they have very little power. 

Taza’s Solution: Direct Trade Model

In order to combat some of these issues, according to Taza it developed, “The first third-party certified direct trade cacao sourcing program, to ensure quality and transparency for all.” (Taza Website: Direct Trade). Because it is the first of its kind, Taza published five guidelines and commitments for its direct trade system that it holds itself accountable to. 

  1. Develop direct relationships with cacao farmers:  Taza began by purchasing cocoa from La Red Guaconejo cooperative in the Dominican Republic and shipping it directly to Boston so that there were no middlemen involved. This direct method shrinks, “a commodity chain that is often far-flung, [so that] no step of the trade exchange, from farm to factory, was unknown or untraceable to Taza’s founders” (Leissle, 154). They later expanded their sources to include other producers in the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Ghana, all of which they have personal relationships with. Their single origin bars reflect and appreciate the uniqueness of each location. 
  2. Pay a price premium to cacao producers: Taza commits to paying at least $500 per MT above market price for its beans
  3. Source the highest quality cacao beans: Taza emphasizes fine flavor beans rather than bulk beans, and directs resources over the long term to assist producers in maintaining high quality output 
  4. Require USDA certified organic cacao: As part of its commitment to source only the best cocoa, Taza requires its producers to be organic certified. 
  5. Publish an annual transparency report: Taza was the first chocolate company ever to publish such a report. It includes the quantity of beans bought from each individual producer, the price Taza pays for these beans, and an intimate look at the individual producers they partner with. 
Overview of Taza’s Direct Trade Program in 2018

Pros of Taza’s Direct Trade Model

Taza’s direct trade model has improved the economics of farmers while simultaneously promoting transparency in the industry. In paying a large premium (15-20%), Taza ensures that the farmers do not have to worry about not being able to earn enough to survive fluctuations in cocoa price that are entirely outside of their control. This gives farmers much-needed predictability and visibility into future income and improves their standard of living. Furthermore, by publishing the exact prices they buy the seeds at and having all of their numbers and reports independently verified each year by the Quality Certification Services, Taza guarantees integrity and transparency. This is a stark contrast to the rest of the industry; many companies in recent years have introduced “even more ambiguity into the landscapes of its practice” by relying on internal certification and accountability schemes (Leissle, 147). For example, Cadbury recently stopped fair trade certification and instead initiated an in-house sustainability guarantee, which has decreased transparency because, “when a certification scheme is internal to a company, it is more difficult to assess whether they are rigorous and consistently applied. The only option is to take the company’s words that they are” (Leissle, 147-148). The same can be said for craft chocolate companies, who claim to pay several times the world market price for cocoa, yet there is no way for the consumer to verify. In publishing its prices, Taza has set a new standard for the industry, and others, such as Dandelion Chocolate, are following suit.

 Taza’s production process also allows for stronger relationships with producers and greater visibility into the company’s supply chain, ensuring no child labor is used to produce its products. In interacting directly with each of their producers, and visiting at least once a year, Taza can guarantee the use of fair labor. Furthermore, in Ghana, where, as discussed earlier, child labor is especially prevalent, Taza has invested in education programs for children and their family. For example, the local producers Taza partners with coordinate workshops in local schools for students and parents to “educate around age-appropriate farm activities… versus dangerous ones” (2018 transparency report). Additionally, Taza has patterned with the non-profit International Cocoa Initiative and its buyer Tony’s Chocolonely, to “proactively address any instances of unsafe work through a combination of family resources and training that rewards transparency and addresses core issues of poverty and lack of education” (2018 transparency report). 

Finally, Taza’s single origin bars promote consumer awareness about the countries where it sources its chocolate. Each bar, according to the website, “is minimally processed to let the bold flavors and unique terroir of our Direct Trade Certified beans shout loud and proud”  (Taza website: Origin Bars). 

Taza’s single origin chocolate bars

By indicating where the chocolate is grown, these single origin bars can help consumers learn that the taste of chocolate differs from place to place, and “invite shoppers to consider the politics and economics of exporting cocoa… By offering a range of chocolate experiences that can change even day by day, single origin chocolate reminds us that there are real people, institutions, and power structures behind every bar” (Leissle, 170). A more informed consumer is likely to make more informed decisions in the future, which can help promote sustainable, ethical chocolate production by creating demand for such products. 

How Taza can Improve

Although the Taza model has many strengths, there are areas where it is still lacking. For example, the prices listed in the transparency reports indicate the amount paid per metric ton to producer organizations, but they do not indicate the farm gate price, or how much the individual farmer receives. The farm gate price is distinctive from the price paid to the producers, but by not including both, the reports can mislead the consumer into thinking the listed price is entirely received by the farmers. In only one year, 2016, Taza reported the price that was actually received by farmers, which ranged from 51-76% of the price that was received by producer organizations (2016 transparency report). However, no other transparency report published these numbers, and this percentage could have changed substantially in the years since, especially because a few of the producer organizations they work with have changed. While Taza is exemplary in its transparency, there is room to be even more transparent by consistently publishing the farm gate price in its reports. 

Additionally, even though gender inequality is an important problem in cocoa production, Taza does not explicitly address it in its transparency reports. Photos of women farmers have been featured in some of the past reports, and the number of women farmers is included in each report (ranging from 15% to 45% of each producer organization). These inclusions are important in disproving the misconception that women are not involved in cocoa production. However, there is no reference to the struggles women face due to the power dynamics of the industry. Taza had the opportunity to do so in its 2018 report, when it mentions that its partner in El Majagual, Dominican Republic donated his chocolate factory to an association of local women. However, they do not even name the women’s association or delve into what it does, and it seems as though the sale was a decision made independently by the producer with no help or influence from Taza. This is an area where Taza can really improve and learn from organizations such as Kuapa Kokoo, a Ghana based company that sets gender quotas for elected representation at the community and district levels of governance and organizes conscious-raising women’s groups and women’s literacy programs (Leissle, 149). An essential next step for Taza is to acknowledge the unequal distribution of power and wealth due to gender, because according to field work and research by Kristy Leissle and Stephanie Barrientos , “Apart from explicit, well-directed efforts to empower women, most assistance…[goes] directly or indirectly to men” (Leissle, 173). 

Conclusion

In summary, Taza Chocolate is changing the way chocolate is sourced, produced and consumed. In addressing the economic problems farmers face, ensuring its producers do not use forced labor, and investing in programs that combat child labor, Taza is making a positive impact on cocoa production. However, there are many areas where Taza can still learn and grow— the transparency reports would be greatly improved if they included farm gate prices, and just as the company has invested in programs to fight against child labor, it should invest in programs that are actively looking to support women.  That being said, Taza’s direct trade program is truly innovative, and its transparency reports are challenging other companies to improve their own practices. Although the direct trade model is not feasible for the larger scale companies that dominate the industry, consumers must demand the same level of commitment to ethical production that Taza demonstrates.  

Works Cited

Berlan, Amanda. “Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana.” Journal of Development Studies, vol. 49, no. 8, 2013, pp. 1088–1100. 

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018. 

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

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: a Social and Cultural History. Manchester University Press, 2013.

https://www.ilo.org/global/standards/subjects-covered-by-international-labour-standards/child-labour/lang–en/index.htm

https://www.tazachocolate.com

https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/2016-transparency-report

https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/2018-transparency-report

Images Cited

https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0974/7668/files/Taza_Chocolate_Making_Process.pdf?10043542871181577895

https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/taza-direct-trade

http://www.tazachocolate.com/collections/bars

The Ethical and Economic Rationale for Selling Fair Trade Chocolate

The sale of chocolate is big business. According to the National Confectioners Association, chocolate sales totaled $21.1 billion in the United States in 2014. (Franchise Help). Despite the significant size of the market, growers responsible for cultivating cocoa do not always share the benefits. The Fair Trade movement attempts to address this imbalance and improve the economic plight of cocoa growers. This ethical movement has resonated with consumers, and there is well-documented consumer demand to purchase Fair Trade items. Despite the ethical and economic rationale for selling Fair Trade chocolate, cocoa sold with the Fair Trade label accounts for a very low 0.5% share of the global cocoa market, according to International Cocoa Organization. Based on the ethical and economic benefits companies will attain from distributing Fair Trade products, a strong case can be made for retailers to offer a larger selection of Fair Trade chocolates.  

Despite the significant global demand for cocoa products, producers struggle with economic deprivation & human rights abuses. As a result of oversupply and fluctuating commodity prices, many cocoa growers live below the global poverty line, and earn less than $2 a day (ILPI 14). In addition to the struggle to afford basic life necessities, many cocoa growers are unable to hire sufficient labor and are forced to rely instead on having family members farm, including children who might be pulled from school. Even worse, other children are trafficked as low-salary laborers or even slaves, and forced to work on some cocoa plantations. There are an estimated 880,00 child laborers in Ghana, and 1,150,00 children working in Côte d’Ivoire (ILPI 31). Many of these children work in hazardous conditions, including operating heavy machinery, applying pesticides to foods, and using dangerous tools to harvest cacao pods.

In order to improve economic and human rights conditions, Fair Trade organizations have developed systems that organize cocoa growers to sell their goods as part of collectives which increases their bargaining power and reduces layers of middlemen. Cocoa growers receive a guaranteed minimum price for their goods which allows them to earn a living wage. This helps ensure that cocoa growers have a safety net when cacao falls below a sustainable level as a commodity. This is valuable to the cocoa growers because cocoa prices can be volatile and can move in a wide range, thereby creating uncertainty in the price that the cocoa growers will receive for their crop. 

Cocoa com
Cocoa prices

 

The Fair Trade organization consults producers, traders and other stakeholders and to determine a fair price for cocoa. The cooperatives also receive an additional “Fair Trade premium” where members have discretion to spend the funds in order for the benefit the cocoa growers and their communities. The Fair Trade premium for standard quality cocoa is $150 / ton. (International Cocoa Organization) and the Minimum Price including the Fair Trade Premium is $1,750 / ton. In return for these economic benefits, cocoa growers agree to comply with the organization’s labor standards which prohibit child labor and protect against other human rights abuses. Additional standards include environmental protections. 

Producers of goods that purchase from Fair Trade providers display logos on their products which inform consumers the food was produced under Fair Trade standards. Consumers who purchase these items can be confident that they are supporting the Fair Trade system. 

Fair Trade orGANIZATIONS
Fair Trade logos

 

While there is a strong ethical case to be made for the sale of Fair Trade items, the question remains as to whether consumers are interested in purchasing them. Numerous academic studies have been conducted to investigate the amount of consumer interest in Fair Trade goods.

The first question a retailer should consider is whether or not consumers are interested in buying Fair Trade products and the amount they would be willing to pay. A survey posed to American consumers the questions of whether they value Fair Trade products and how much more they would be willing to pay for Fair Trade coffee. The results of this survey indicated that Americans are interested in Fair Trade products and would to be willing to pay $0.22 /lb. more for Fair Trade coffee than for the non-Fair trade equivalent. (Carlson 5)

Researchers at the Stanford Business School set up an experiment to determine whether coffee carrying a Fair Trade label sold better, equally, or worse than identical coffee not labeled. The results showed that the Fair Trade label had a substantial positive effect both on the quantity sold as well as the price it was able to command. Researchers found that sales rose by almost 10% when a coffee carried a Fair Trade label as compared to the same coffee carrying a generic placebo label. A second study found that demand for Fair Trade coffee was inelastic; sales of the Fair Trade labeled coffee remained fairly steady when its price was raised by 8%. In contrast, coffee without the Fair Trade labels experienced a 30% decline in sales after a similar price increase (Hainmueller et al 2).

In another study, titled “Are Consumers Willing to Pay More for Fair Trade Certified Coffee?” the author looked at items that went through Fair Trade certification and compared the price consumers were willing to pay for the same item before and after the item received its Fair Trade certification. The conclusion was that “consistent with prior work… (the study) finds that Certification has a large positive effect on the price of coffee”, although this paper determined that the premium consumers were willing to pay for Fair Trade certification was smaller than previous studies. (Carlson 16)

Fair Trade labeling produces a measurable response in the brain. Researchers from the University of Bonn conducted a two part study to discern the neural effects of Fair Trade labels. In the first part of the study, subjects were shown pictures of 80 different products, 40 with the Fair Trade emblem, and 40 identical items without the emblem. They were then prompted to choose how much they were willing to pay for each item. Not only were customers willing to pay more for each Fair Trade object, but fMRI scans revealed that while ‘buying’ these objects, the activity of the reward section of the subjects brains increased when the subjects were buying Fair Trade labelled items. For the second part of the study, a conventional chocolate bar was broken up into pieces for every participant and then equally distributed on two small plates. While the chocolate on the two plates were identical, scientists told subjects that one plate contained conventional chocolate, while the other was Fair Trade certified chocolate. When eating what they believed to be Fair Trade chocolate, fMRI scans showed “increased experienced taste pleasantness and intensity for the [Fair trade] label” (Enax et al 11)

At least some of the demand for Fair Trade chocolate can be attributed to positive, albeit unsubstantiated, perceptions that Fair Trade chocolate is healthier than non-Fair Trade chocolate. The ‘Halo Effect’, is a well known psychological phenomenon in which a singular good trait of a person or object leads people to apply additional good traits to the person or item. Companies can often be seen taking advantage of the halo effect by promoting organic, non-GMO, and locally grown products. Likewise, Fair Trade goods also tend to be perceived as having superior characteristics when compared to non-Fair Trade goods. In one study, subjects were given a description of a brand of chocolate. The control group was given no information about the chocolate, while the other group was it was told it was a Fair Trade product produced by a manufacturer that pays cocoa growers “50 percent more than the standard market price for cocoa, to ensure that the growers receive a fair wage for their efforts.” When the participants were later asked whether they believed the chocolate they had been presented with contained more, equal, or fewer calories compared to other brands, those who had been told that the chocolate was Fair Trade perceived it as lower-calorie than other brands. (Jacobs 1).

The moral arguments for Fair Trade products resonate with consumers. Numerous studies conclude because of the ethical considerations, consumers are interested in buying Fair Trade products. Selling Fair Trade chocolate makes sound economic sense and there is a demand for Fair Trade products. Are Fair Trade products readily available for purchase by American consumers? In order assess the availability of Fair Trade chocolate products I conducted a survey of five retailers: Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, CVS and Rite Aid drugstores and Key Food supermarkets to determine the extent of their Fair Trade chocolate selection. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s were chosen because they are two out of the three retailers listed on the Fair Trade America’s website. CVS and Rite Aid were chosen as representative of chain drug stores. Key Food was chosen as representative of a neighborhood supermarket. The survey was conducted the week of May 6, 2018. In order to correct for variations in offerings and out of stocks at different locations, two locations for each retailer were surveyed.

Whole Foods
Whole Foods is a supermarket chain with 470 stores, primarily in North America (Securities and Exchange Commission). Whole Foods has a strong history and association with social responsibility. As part of the Core Values listed on the website, Whole Foods highlights “We practice win-win partnerships with our suppliers”, a notion highly aligned with Fair Trade philosophy.  Each of the Whole Foods surveyed had an extensive selection of Fair Trade chocolates which comprised nearly all of the chocolate items for sale. The stores surveyed had approximately 100 different Fair Trade chocolate products for sale, from 16 companies. 

Brand 95 East Houston St. store  4 Union Square store
365 house brand 4  –
Alter Eco 4 5
Barethins 4
Divine 11 8
Endangered Species 11 10
Equal Exchange 4 4
Green & Black 9 7
Jelina  – 4
Lake Champlain 7 9
Lilly’s 9 8
Madecasse (Direct Trade) 7 7
Taza (Direct Trade) 5 5
Theo Chocolate 13 13
Unreal 5 5
Vosages 7
Whole Foods – private label 4 8
Total 97 100

Whole Foods FT chocolate
Whole Foods Fair Trade chocolate offerings (photo taken by author)

Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s is a supermarket chain with 474 stores nationwide (Trader Joe’s). The company does not highlight social responsibility, but rather “innovative, hard-to-find, great-tasting foods… that cut our costs and save you money.” While the company does not position themselves as placing a high value on socially responsible products, they do maintain lists Vegan, Gluten Free, and Kosher products.  Based on the “Halo Effect” described above, this might lead some customers to make the association with selling Fair Trade items as well. The Trader Joe’s stores surveyed had a very limited selection of Fair Trade Chocolates. 

Brand 14th St. store 31st Street store
TJ Batons 3 3
TJ Fair Trade Organic 1
Total 3 4

Trader Joes FT chocolate
Trader Joe’s Fair Trade chocolate offerings (photo taken by author)

CVS / Rite Aid

CVS is a pharmacy/convenience store chain with 8,060 stores and Rite Aid is a chain similar to CVS with 2,550 stores (Securities and Exchange Commision) CVS and Rite Aid cater to a much broader demographic than either Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. Of the stores surveyed, the number of Fair Trade chocolate products were far below those sold at Whole Foods, and sold a similar number of Fair Trade chocolate items to Trader Joe’s. 

CVS

Brand 500 Grand Street store 253 1st Ave. store
Chauo 3
Endangered Species 1
Total 4 0

CVS FT chocolate
CVS Fair Trade chocolate offerings (photo taken by author)

Rite Aid

Brand 408 Grand St. store 81 First Ave. store
Bark Thins 3 2

Rite Aid FT chocolate
Rite Aid Fair Trade chocolate offerings (photo taken by author)

Key Food

Key Food is a cooperative of independently owned supermarkets located in the Northeast. Of the two stores surveyed, one sold no Fair Trade items while the other sold considerably more than CVS, Rite Aid or Trader Joe’s.

Brand 43 Columbia St. – store 52 Ave. A – store
Divine 11
Endangered Species 6
Green & Black 5
Total 0 22

Key Food FT chocolate
Key Food Fair Trade chocolate offerings (photo taken by author)

 

Despite the sound ethical and economic reasons for retailers to sell Fair Trade chocolate, cocoa sold with the Fair Trade label still captures a very low share of the cocoa market. Research indicates that consumers are interested in purchasing Fair Trade products and are willing to pay a premium. Whole Foods has tapped into this demand and demonstrates that it is possible for a retailer to offer an extensive selection of Fair Trade chocolate items. They however seem to be more the exception rather than the rule. If other retailers tapped into the demand and offered a more extensive selection of Fair Trade chocolate, it is likely that more Fair Trade chocolate would be purchased and more cocoa suppliers would share the benefits of Fair Trade.

 

Works cited

Cameron. “KEEP CALM AND ONLY EAT FAIR TRADE CHOCOLATE.” Keep-Calm-o-Matic, Keep Calm Network Ltd., http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/p/keep-calm-and-only-eat-fair-trade-chocolate/.

Carlson, Adam P. Are Consumers Willing to Pay More for Fair Trade Certified Coffee? Are Consumers Willing to Pay More for Fair Trade Certified Coffee?


“Child Labour in the West African Cocoa Sector.” International Law and Policy Institute, 26 Nov. 2015, ilpi.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/20151126-Child-labour-in-the-West-African-Cocoa-Sector-ILPI.pdf.


“Chocolate Industry Analysis 2018 – Cost & Trends.” Franchisehelp.com, www.franchisehelp.com/industry-reports/chocolate-industry-analysis-2018-cost-trends/.


“Cocoa | 1959-2018 | Data | Chart | Calendar | Forecast | News.” Trading Economics, TRADING ECONOMICS, tradingeconomics.com/commodity/cocoa.


Enax, Laura, et al. “Effects of Social Sustainability Signaling on Neural Valuation Signals and Taste-Experience of Food Products.” Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, vol. 9, 2015, doi:10.3389/fnbeh.2015.00247.

“Fairtrade Certified Products – Fairtrade America.” Fair Trade, Fair Trade, www.fairtradeamerica.org/Fairtrade-Products.


“Fair Trade Labels.” A Fair Trade Place, WordPress,

afairtradeplace.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/fair-trade-logos3.jpg.


Hainmueller, Jens, et al. “Consumer Demand for the Fair Trade Label: Evidence from a Field Experiment.” The Review of Economics and Statistics, vol. 97, no. 2, Feb. 2014, pp. 242–256., doi:10.2139/ssrn.1801942.


“International Cocoa Organization.” International Cocoa Organization, www.icco.org/about-cocoa/chocolate-industry.html.


Jacobs, Tom. “’Fair Trade’ Chocolate Perceived as Healthier.” Pacific Standard, Pacific Standard, 5 Jan. 2012, psmag.com/economics/fair-trade-chocolate-perceived-as-healthier-38894.


“Jens Hainmueller: Will People Pay More for Fair Trade Products?” Youtube, Stanford Graduate School of Business, 18 Feb. 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMiy1Y55DLA.


United States, Congress, Washington, D.C. “Edgar .” Edgar , SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION, 17 Nov. 2017.

www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/865436/000086543617000238/wfm10k2017.htm.


United States, Congress, Washington, D.C. “Edgar.” Edgar, SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION, 14 Feb. 2018. www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/64803/000155837018000707/cvs-20171231x10k.htm.


United States, Congress, Washington, D.C. “Edgar.” Edgar, SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION, 26 Apr. 2018. www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/84129/000104746918003207/a2235393z10-k.htm.


“What Is Fair Trade.” Youtube, FairtradeANZ, 12 July 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoIZWd2q2Ec.


“WHERE IN THE DICKENS CAN YOU FIND A TRADER JOES.” http://www.traderjoes.com, www.traderjoes.com/pdf/Trader-Joes-Stores.pdf.

Chocolate Faceoff: An in depth look at Competitive Retail Markets

The relationship between humans and chocolate is very intimate.  Chocolate is one of those foods that people can share a deep connection with.  A love for chocolate can be born through special family moments such as a parent rewarding his or her child with a treat for good behavior; or through the traditional exchange of candy during holidays like Valentine’s Day and Halloween.  Prior to taking a course entitled Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food instructed by Professor Carla Martin, I did not realize how important – and impactful for that matter – chocolate’s effect had and continues to have on humanity to this day.  In this paper, I will examine the chocolate selection at Walgreens, Whole Foods and Furlongs (a locally owned craft chocolate shop) to provide a better understanding of what these retail establishments teach us about chocolate products and how our consumer choices affect the world around us.

Considering that Walgreens is the 2nd largest pharmacy chain in the United States, it was interesting to see them ditch their previous slogan of being at “the corner of happy and healthy” and replacing it with “trusted since 1901.”  Aside from filling prescription medications, Walgreens actually serves their consumers by selling a wide assortment of products; chocolate being those among them.  When recently visiting their candy isle, I noticed three observations about their chocolate selection: the products were easily recognizable brands, non-descriptive and most importantly, cheap.  For example, how can a household name such as Hershey’s milk chocolate be sold at 79 cents per bar?

IMG-0910

Michael D’Antonio sheds light on how this is possible in his article entitled HERSHEY: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire and Utopian Dreams.  He states that with the aid of John Schmalbach “Mr. Hershey had discovered a batch of warm, smooth, sweetened condensed milk that accepted cocoa powder and other ingredients without getting lumpy; it melted smoothly in the mouth and could be stored for several months without spoiling.  Hershey would be able to make milk chocolate faster and cheaper than the Europeans.  Once he had his formula he began to adapt it for large scale production” (D’Antonio, pg. 107-108).  Milton Hershey was a capitalist who paid John Schmalbach $100 for a chocolate formula that he envisioned growing into a billion dollar business.  He was not alone either, as other chocolate giants such as Mars would join the race in creating a confectionery product whose ingredients were extremely secretive, yet could yield a major profit.

Chocolate products like Hershey’s Kisses, Snickers and Kit Kat are packaged in a way that refrains from telling the origin of where their respective companies sourced their cacao content.  This is not a revelation by any means as historically these American and European businesses have not reflected an honest and moral approach in how they conduct themselves from an ethical standpoint.  The European success of Quaker chocolate giants Joseph Fry & Son, Cadbury and Rowntree along with the success of their American counterparts in Hershey and Mars hinged on “mass production and cost cutting methods” (Coe & Coe, pg. 241).

These cost cutting methods coupled marketing strategies such as the ones Emma Robertson describes in her article entitled Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History proved to be successful.  Robertson states that “the consumption of chocolate in the West became feminized early in its history.  From the male dominated coffee and chocolate houses of the early 17th century, chocolate became associated with luxury and leisure in the domestic sphere of the 18th century.  Cocoa and chocolate became available for the working classes from the 19th century as women were charged with providing wholesome cocoa for respectable consumption within the family (Robertson, pg. 20).”  What Robertson is eluding to is how American and European companies began to implement a gendered and classed approach in marketing chocolate products as an essential component of the human diet.

It is a cost effective approach that capitalizes on the convenience of selling a chocolate product that takes months to spoil and creates a market for itself centered around trick or treating, gifting chocolates for significant others and hiding eggs around the home for children to hunt.  Walgreens in particular is the perfect retail market to sell confectionary chocolate as each holiday would bring a different theme for customers to purchase cheap and easily identifiable brands.  The shelves in the isle even provide an industrial like feel when you look at them.  This can be on purpose as both the producer and consumer enjoy the convenience of not having to think much about where their chocolate comes from.  It is a simple in and out shopping experience; one that can be used to argue that this is why Walgreen’s changed its slogan altogether.

Whole Foods on the other hand is quite the opposite.  If you’re upgrading your slogan from “America’s healthiest grocery store” to “World’s healthiest grocery store” you better have a great reputation to back that up.  When you visit the Whole Foods website and view their mission statement: https://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/our-mission-values, you see a strong emphasis on quality food, treating the customer and supplier of their foods like family, and being very transparent about where they source their products from.  Their impressive selection of chocolate is no different.

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Upon visiting their isle dedicated to chocolate, the most notable observations were how descriptive each selection was.  The clarity of the images and many certifications embraced a certain level of transparency that is simply non-existent in comparison to the chocolate that is sold at Walgreens.  The price for a Whole Foods dark chocolate and almond bar is $2.99 (a $2.20 increase from Walgreen’s Hershey milk chocolate bar) and the cover proudly proclaims it contribution to the Tanzania schoolhouse project.  Pictures shows the Theobromine Cacao tree along with the cacao pods where cacao beans are harvested, roasted, dried and ground into chocolate liquor.  There is also an uplifting photo of the Tanzanian school children joyfully smiling and waving.  Reassuring words like organic, Fair Trade and non-GMO provide the consumer extra comfort in the security of knowing that they are making an honest purchase.  How can there be such a disparity between these two retailers if their essentially selling the same product?

There are many reasons why the Whole Food selection is priced higher, more informative and healthier than the chocolate that is sold at Walgreens.  For one, Whole Foods sells their own chocolate, but also carries chocolate that is produced by smaller independent companies who make it an initiative to respect the origin of chocolate and treat the people who harvest its most important ingredient with dignity and respect.  As we now know, the MesoAmerican origin and history of how Theobromine Cacao was discovered by the Olmecs and later advanced by the Mayan and Aztec people largely goes untold.  Whole Foods products makes it a point to acknowledge this history and identify that their cacao comes from various parts of the world, including Mexico, South America, Brazil, Venezuela and certain parts of Africa.

Certifications like the Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance are non-profit organizations that aid in making sure that companies do not take advantage of the people working on these farms.  While other entities like the International Labor Organization aim to protect children from being exploited by major chocolate corporations, their stories, along with the working conditions that they and other farmers face are what major chocolate companies do not want you to be informed about.  I will examine child trafficking further to justify why there is an intention for Whole Food’s to separate themselves from other retailers like Walgreens who don’t take this kind of initiative.

In Amanda Berlan’s journal article entitled Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana, she mentions “The ILO definition of the worst forms of child labour (ILO,2004) covers cases where children working in cocoa are not enrolled in school, work makes them leaves school prematurely or they have to combine school attendance with long hours or heavy work” (Berlan, pg. 3).  Considering that this article was written a short 5 years ago in 2013 emphasizes how blurred the lines are between what is actually “modern day slavery” and voluntary labor.  Slavery itself was outlawed in most countries prior to the 19th century, however, many chocolate companies have had their fair share culpability in being involved with illegal slave practices continuing after its abolishment.  Cadbury for example had famously dragged their feet in taking action against the illegal slave labor that was producing their cacao beans in Sao Tome and Principe in the early 1900’s.  For obvious reasons, cacao farmers and chocolate companies had tried to skirt the identification of taking part in illegal slavery, but the farmers had also resorted to trafficking children to work on their farms in order to maintain the convenience of not having to pay them.  However, it is not as simple as these farmers being the exploiters and these children being exploited.

Farmers are only paid two to three times a year by the weight of how much cacao beans they are able to harvest.  When you factor in the cost of living, paying workers and operational costs to keep the farm up and running you quickly realize that these farmers are in an unfair predicament.  A bar that sells at a retail value of 79 cents with no fair trade certification – a certification that farmers must pay for at that – verses a bar that sells for $3.99 with the certification yields a much smaller profit for the farmers as they are the last to receive their cut of business profit.  Farmers compensate for their foreseeable debt by trafficking children almost out of the necessity.  The International Labor Organization attempts to take preventative measures to avoid this from happening but the issue spans much larger than them in my opinion.  The local governments of where these situations take place need to step up and instill change by not charging farmers as much as they do for bulk cacao.  Professor Martin mentioned on the first day of class that “75% of the cacao produced in the world comes from Africa while 75% of it is consumed in the United States and Europe.”  These are all examples of why Whole Foods selection of chocolate is more conscious of the implications behind who they conduct business with and why they are selling their products to their consumers.

The last stop on our retail tour is a small craft chocolate shop located in Norwood, Massachusetts called Furlongs Candies and Ice Cream.  Furlongs does not have a slogan per se but the about us section of their website reads as follows: Furlong’s has been in business for more than 80 years offering homemade chocolates made from the highest quality ingredients. Whatever the occasion, our chocolates make a great gift that anyone would love to receive.

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If you are a chocolate lover, this is the place for you; at least from a visual standpoint.  The presentation of their chocolate selection is much different than Walgreens and Whole Foods altogether.  The most notable observations here are that over 90% of the chocolate for sale is not pre-packaged.  If there is packaging it is clear plastic with minimal descriptions aside from the title of the type of chocolate it is.  Craft chocolate shops are a lot smaller than their giant retail competitors like the ones I discussed earlier.

To survive as a small business there has be a different approach taken from a marketing standpoint to build clientele.  In Jim Eber and Pam Williams’s book entitled Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate, Eber and Williams discuss the challenges the Mast brothers faced when attempting to gain traction with their business in the food industry.  “Like many fine flavor manufacturers, know that even their best traditional advertising, marketing and publicity efforts can’t compete with the big money of multinational chocolate manufacturers.  For them, education starts at the exact opposite of “mass,” – with direct connections tasting with and talking to as many customers as possible, which can sometimes lead to surprising results” (Eber and Williams, pg. 149).

Artisanal and craft chocolate shops like Furlongs have to fight an uphill battle of building relationships with their clients while dealing with a fluctuating availability of cacao supply.  Cacao supply can be hit or miss because their relationships with farmers can be fragile and industrial size chocolate companies like Hershey’s and Mar’s can quickly absorb large bulks of it without much advance notice.  However, smaller craft shops do have their perks as Eber and Williams highlight when they mention “whether it is Theo Chocolate in Seattle or TCHO in San Francisco, small manufactures are opening their doors to packed tours of people eager to learn about flavor, how chocolate is made and where it comes from” (Eber and Williams, pg. 157).  There are benefits when being the underdog that people can rally around and root for.  Norwood, Massachusetts has one in Furlongs.

The choices we make when purchasing chocolate products and food in general do have real consequences on our personal health and the world around us.  Walgreens, Whole Foods and Furlongs represent three different retail markets in the United States and sell chocolate in their own unique ways.  Walgreen’s sells it to make as much money as possible and ask little to no questions.  Whole Foods sells it to inform the consumer that they are purchasing a product that is ethically sourced and educate them on what makes it special.  While Furlongs sells chocolate to be staple in the community and display its authenticity as skilled chocolatiers.  Ultimately, we have the power as consumers to investigate these the products on the shelves of these establishments and make informed decisions about a delicacy we love so much.

 

 

                                                                       Works Cited
Berlan, Amanda. “Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana.” Journal of Development Studies, vol. 49, no. 8, 2013, p. 3., doi:10.1080/00220388.2013.780041.
“Chocolate, Women and Empire: a Social and Cultural History.” Chocolate, Women and Empire: a Social and Cultural History, by Emma Robertson, Manchester University Press, 2013, p. 20.
Foods, Whole. “Our Mission & Values.” Whole Foods Market, 7 Mar. 2018, http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/our-mission-values.
“Hershey Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams.” Hershey Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams, by Michael D’Antonio, Simon and Schuster, 2007, pp. 107–108.
Milk Vs. Dark Chocolate: The Ultimate Showdown. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rSaOv8vZyY.
“Raising the Bar: the Future of Fine Chocolate.” Raising the Bar: the Future of Fine Chocolate, by Pam Williams and Jim Eber, Wilmor Pub., 2012, pp. 149–157.
“The True History of Chocolate.” The True History of Chocolate, by Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe, Thames & Hudson, 2003, p. 241.
*The photos of the store shelves were taken in person via my Iphone.

 

From Gene to Bean to Bar: A Tour from USDA Research to Castronovo Chocolate

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Photo of Display at Castronovo Chocolate literally from beans to bars.

I spent a day and a half visiting both the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Miami and Castronovo Chocolate, a 700 square foot chocolate factory, 2 hours north of Miami located in Stuart Florida. This posting tells the story of the morning with Mike Winterstein, an agricultural research technician at the USDA and of the afternoon and following morning, spent with Denise Castronovo, an artisan chocolate maker and the owner of Castronovo Chocolate.

It is my opinion that both the USDA and Castronovo are part of solution to problems we have studied in the cacao-chocolate supply chain.

First Stop: USDA Agricultural Research Subtropical Station

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Photo: Mike Winterstein is the Agricultural Research Technician at the USDA Agricultural Sub Tropical Research Service,  He is from Long Island New York, moved to Florida in 1974, as a farmer, and joined the USDA in 1994.

As a grower, Mike maintains plants, going out into the fields and taking care of them from planting to germinating etc.  Indoors, he also formats and stores data, maintaining data on the USDA websites.  Mike works with other researchers verifying collections.  The USDA genome research is publically available.  You can order a species, 13,000 are available, from the USDA for the cost of shipping and the phytosanitary certificate verifying the plant is free of all pathogens ($50 ) The big five crops for the USDA are wheat, rice, soybean, corn and cotton.  However at the station in Miami the primary crops being studied are avocado, mango and cacao, and interestingly also sugar cane.  To paraphrase, Mike, “Even though cacao is not really grown in the US, yes, some is in Puerto Rico (Mayaguez has the main cacao collection) and Hawaii, the research and the storing of the genome and plants are important because lots and lots of jobs in the US are tied into chocolate from the manufacture, to the infrastructure, to the advertising/marketing to the consumption.”

The research at the USDA is funded primarily by the US Government.  CRIS the Current Resource Information System https://reeis.usda.gov/reports-and-documents/cris-reports/cris-overview. Is the “documentation and reporting system for ongoing agricultural, food and nutrition, and forestry research.”

The research is funded through farm bills, approved by Congress and thus is really funded by the US taxpayer.  The USDA is a government agency, funding for research changes (due to changing taste and politics), research is at the mercy of the government.  In the new farm bill you can look up the research being done on specialty crops. Here is the link for 2017 http://www.obpa.usda.gov/budsum/fy17budsum.pdf and a link for programs possible being dropped in 2018 http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/path-to-the-2018-farmbill-stranded-programs/  and another link  from the Council of State Governments for 2018 as proposed by President Trump:  http://www.csg-erc.org/blog/2017/04/10/first-look-president-trumps-usda-budget-2018/

The History

The USDA in Miami started with “The Boys”. (See photo) Walter Tennyson Swingle, (1871-1952)  who graduated from Kansas State at age 16 and had an obsession with chasing citrus (there was no citrus industry yet in Florida, but there was a potential for the crop. http://merrick.library.miami.edu/specialCollections/wtswingle/. Swingle taught himself Mandarin Chinese and German and went looking for crops that could be successful in the US.  He persuaded Henry Flagler, the man who brought his railroad to South Florida, thus opening Florida for development, to give the USDA an acre of land along Biscayne Bay for a lab to study plant disease.  Swingle also persuaded Mary Brickell to give 6 acres to use as a plant introduction site.  The donation was not accepted, but a lease was negotiated.  Plant Explorer, David Fairchild, the same David Fairchild who brought the cherry trees to Washington, D.C.’s tidal basin, is another major player in the history. He sought a piece of land for its climate, not just for the land.

Where the USDA sits today is not shielded by barrier islands.  It receives the warm gulf stream, and because there are no barrier islands, the Atlantic Ocean retains the warmth of the gulf stream, creating a climate fit for cacao.  The land, it is believed,  has always been frost free (important for all subtropical fruits and vegetation).

Viktor Emmanuel Chapman was the first aviator to be killed in France in WWI on November 15, 1918. He trained on this same sight, what is now known as Chapman field with America’s first “Fly Boys” who flew, before the US entered WWI, for the French Foreign Legion in the American Escadrille.  The history of the USDA station at Chapman field in Miami and the breadth of agricultural research currently being done at the USDA subtropical agricultural research center is fascinating and complex.

For more detail of the history see: https://www.ars.usda.gov/southeast-area/miami-fl/subtropical-horticulture-research/docs/a-century-of-research-with-usda-in-miami/

1 The Boys

The USDA Mission in Miami is to:

1. Introduce a broad genetic base for tropical and subtropical horticultural crops believed to have economic potential in warm humid regions of the United States or its territories.

2. Evaluate the introduced populations for their genetic structure, horticultural variation, and botanical characteristics.
3. Preserve a diverse sub-set representing a broad genetic base for each crop.
4. Distribute the material to research scientist, botanical gardens, nurserymen and parks as is appropriate.

The National Germplasm Repository (NGR) is one of eighteen such repositories in the NPGS. The NGR-Miami shares responsibility with Mayaguez – Puerto Rico, for maintaining the U.S. clonal collections of mango, avocado, banana and plantain, tropical citrus, annonas, sugarcane and related grasses, palms, Tripsacum, and a few other relatively minor tropical crops.

Germplasm Holdings: 

The NGR-Miami maintains approximately 6000 accessions. Most the holdings (3500) are in the major fruit and grass collections. The remaining 2500 accessions are ornamental, chemurgic, and spice introductions from tropical and subtropical areas of the world. These plants are a unique collection and requests for material come from many scientific disciplines. Small quantities of germplasm are distributed to bona fide scientists for research purposes.” Not true anymore:  the germ plasm is available to landscapers, botanists, landscape architects, nurseries, as well as bona fide researchers.

Cacao is held at the NGR Miami and has been important both to deal with diseases:  witches broom, frost pod, bitofera, pests, parasites, fungus, etc.  benefitting cacao producers worldwide, but also because “significant quantities of milk, sugar, peanuts, almonds, and other materials produced in the U.S. go into the making of chocolate products. The station is one of two quarantine facilities for cacao in the western hemisphere that serve to keep diseases from moving into the area”.  The station also does research for Mars with Mars scientists.  They have sensors monitoring trees for nitrogen, sunlight, humidity etc. monitoring conditions to be able to help cacao farmers in Indonesia.  The cacao is grown in an area that was built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp -think the Depression and the New Deal) cement walls that look like Mayan ruins absorb the heat keeping the area warmer.

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Mike will hand pollinate a cacao tree, by collecting pollen at the beginning of the day., The next morning he takes the anther’s off, so the tree can not self pollinate, and he brings the pollen, using a Q-tip or tiny paint brush from another tree.  He said  that when he brings the pollen he sees a little spurt.  Wire mesh to keep rats and mice away are around the trees.

Kathleen Martinez, a researcher at the USDA doing Mars research, took me inside the lab.  I was not allowed to photograph inside.  I was shown how leaf material is organized for genome sequencing.  Kathleen explained pipeters, fill tips, DNA samples, working in small quantities, then working on a plate, sequencing 96 samples on 32 plates , PCR amplifying samples, like 96 little needles into a capillary system, with florescent probes, Single nucleotyde polymorphism genotyping, looking for one single change in the genotyping, 96 samples and 96 markers ,fluidigm EPT.  She talked about raw data, XX meaning homozygous, XY meaning heterozygous, allele.  Basically, taking a physical trait linking that trait to a genotype associating it to a phenotype to predict the physotype.  I was shown how the researchers use the centrifuge to remove the cell wall to get clear DNA, some scientists use the plate method and do 40 samples in a day.  Extractions are done all day long.  I was shown the lypholizer, how the water is removed from the fresh leaf keeping the leaf material for long term storage minus 80 degrees C.  Leaves being worked with regularly are stored at minus 20 degrees C.  The autoclave sterilizes all equipment with heat.  Everything is reused.  Tips are cleaned in bleach.  UV cross linker sterilization washed with ethanol then the UV cross linker sterilizer microwave.

Cacao bred to be resistant to disease that tastes well, horrid, CCN51, is now being bred again,  for flavor. I do not know how much research is being done on flavor at this site.

 “The next time you drive by Chapman Field or enjoy a fine bar of chocolate, ponder the centuries of work that have gone into the making. Agriculture is always a struggle and it never ends.  The climate will change, diseases ravage, breeding lines narrow and humans crave something new.  Behind that fence along Old Cutler [road] is a battleground on which the survival of one of mankind’s most iconic crops depends”

Richard Campbell in Edible South Florida Magasine, Winter 2017, Number 1, Volume

Plant_Science_HD2Photo from USDA website

From Gene to Bean to Bar: Visiting Castronova Chocolate

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The timing of my 2nd visit to Castronovo Chocolate was serendipitous:  I got to see the cacao beans arrive. The driver who delivers them brings them inside and is thanked by Denise with one of her chocolate frozen drinks.

Denise Castronovo is a fine chocolate maker.  Originally from Massachusetts, she went to Lehigh University for her Bachelors and Masters in Environmental Science and Economics, then for 2 years she did her PH.d coursework in Ecology in the Botany Department at the University of Georgia. During her undergraduate years she had visited Costa Rica to study the rainforest. In Florida, she started her own mapping technology consulting business.   She has always been interested in sustainable development and conservation.  At the time she was in Costa Rica, eco-tourism was beginning to grow.  Her studies in Economics linked conservation and the environment.  She was interested in monitoring reforestation using aerial satellite imagery.

In her home life, Denise wanted healthy eating for herself and  for her family, (husband and two young children).  She became interested in superfoods, foods high in anti- oxidants, acai, goji berries.  When she went to Whole Foods and bought cocoa nibs she  became amazed by the flavor notes and chocolate and decided to learn all about chocolate.   All her life was excellent preparation for the opening 5 years ago of her chocolate factory and store.

What Denise is successfully creating and growing parallels the societal changes reflected in the American Artisan and Craft Chocolate time line by Carla Martin, Ph.d Chocolate, The Politics of Culture and Food, Harvard Extension. And just as in France, in American society  today it appears that the food movement is valuing artisan craft makers, (perhaps the consumers are of a certain economic level)  turning to slow, small batch chocolate, that we too are part of a changing culture of chocolate consumption. (See Carla D. Martin-Kathryn E. Sampeck)

Denise’s mission is to raise awareness of chocolate by offering unique varietals of chocolate and flavors, heirloom varieties that are endangered,  to create a market that will preserve the diversity of cacao.  see http://hcpcacao.org    On her website she has written: “Reclaiming the craft of bean to bar chocolate making. At a glance, all chocolate-making looks the same: beans are cultivated and fermented, roasted and ground, sweetened and sold. Large-scale chocolate manufacturers have optimized this process for mass production. The unfortunate result: flat, uninspired, expressionless chocolate – the taste has been engineered out of the bar!
We salute the few, craft chocolate makers that are taking time and care with each part of the chocolate making process, releasing the full potential of the bean; those who are supporting careful farming and fermentation, the ones who ensure farmers are paid a fair wage through an ethical and sustainable supply chain, and those who skillfully grind, roast, and sweeten without diluting the bean’s essence.

We at Castronovo Chocolate are in relentless pursuit of discovering the absolute depths of the chocolate experience knowing full well we may never get there. But along the way, we can all enjoy a bar of the most flavorful chocolate you can find.

Denise receives positive feedback from her customers.  She loves to watch them try a truffle at the store, because most have never had anything quite like the ones she makes. One customer has told her that her truffles are better than any he ever had in Brussels.

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She is succeeding as shown by the numerous  international awards she has already won. As she said modestly “I am winning awards with Bonnat, how incredible!”

International Award-winning Chocolate

Sierra Nevada Dark Milk 63%

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Dominican Republic Dark Milk 50%

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Academy of Chocolate Silver Winner Castronovo Sierra Nevada 72%

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Academy of Chocolate Gold Winner Castronovo Chocolate Maya Mountain Belize 72%

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Academy of Chocolate Silver Winner Castronovo Chocolate Lemon White with Lemon Salt

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Academy of Chcocolate Bronze Winner Castronovo Chocolate Amazonas 72%

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 The Process

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photo of Jean-Marie Auboine Chocolatier Chocolate Map with Descriptions copyright 2012-2015

For a complete description of the chocolate making process see http://expertenough.com/973/chocolate  Both are much like Denise’s process.

Denise with her two employees, wearing gloves, sorts the beans, the beans go on trays.   She roasts them in a convection oven (not in a coffee roaster). A roast of 15 trays is approx. 5 1/2 pounds.  She has a loss (shrinkage) of about 30%. Next she winnows the beans which crack and separate the nibs and shell.  The vacuum suction takes the lighter weight nibs to the bottom.  Again she handsets, making sure there is no shell.  Shell is dirty, having bacteria.  The beans roast at 250 to 270 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes.  killing the bacteria.  She does her grinding and mixing in a melanger.  For milk chocolate sugar is added and milk powder.  Her melanger has 2 big granite wheels and a granite bottom.  She does about 90 pounds of chocolate in 3 -4 days.  10,00 in a year.  Refining, Conching and TemperingIMG_0200

Tempering – creating stable crystals.  Denise uses the seeding method.

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an example of a badly tempered bar.

Denise mentioned how clean the beans are from Honduras.  Obviously leaves, twigs, rocks especially are not good for the juicer.  One can hear the rock in the juicer and must pull it out!

Everything in the shop smells so good, the aroma hits you as soon as you enter the door. All the volatile compounds come out mellowing the chocolate.   Denise has a chocolate library, pours the chocolate into hotel pans, pours it into blocks and then uses air conditioned cooling.

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Sample Packaging.

Castronovo chocolates may do more flavored bars in the future, she does 2 right now with coffee.  But the focus will remain on single origin bars.

BEANS

Some of her beans are sourced from the wild.  Her beans from the Sierra Nevada and Honduras are wild.  Beans in her Patenemo, Venezuelan bar are not quite as wild, as they are grown by subsistence farmers.  She sees herself as a small fish in a big pond, but by joining with other craft makers there will be an impact. source: http://www.castronovochocolate.com

If you take the time to look at each Castronovo chocolate bar, read the label: you will see the % of cacao, the type, where it is sourced, a story about the cacao and its origin and flavor notes, and a batch number.

The flavors of chocolate begin with the farming, with the soil, the climate, the elevation, the tree, perhaps the spacing, and then with the process: the harvesting, the fermenting the addition of sugar (or not) or milk (or not) and all the steps leading to the bar . Certain beans, the varietal of chocolate will grow better in one place than another. The difference between a single origin chocolate maker and large companies, is the same as the difference between agriculture and viticulture for wine.  Agriculture seeks standardization, uniformity, high yield and consistency on as large a scale as possible.  With single bar origin done well, the taste brings a sense of connection to the place from which the bean came.  It is “perhaps the most elusive of these concepts and the most difficult to ascertain.  It is the sense you get from …aroma and flavor that could not have come from just anywhere but rather the embodiment of a single piece of earth.  Connectedness makes a thing different and therefore worthy of appreciation. ”

Acknowledgement:

Both Mike and Denise are incredibly knowledgeable, enthusiastic, passionate and generous.  Thank you both for the time you spent with me, guiding me through your factory and your fields and for the information and  the chocolate Denise fed me!  I am enormously grateful.  Thank you Kathleen Martinez for showing me the lab and for making the chocolate genetics research more understandable.

Disclosure:  Next blog post, I would like to make a comparison between wine and chocolate as my husband is a 30 year wine industry consultant, specializing in artesan vintners.  participating in this course through learning about chocolate, and now enthralled with the history, politics, culture, and taste of chocolate (and other foods) has heightened for me the parallels between wine and chocolate.

Sources:

Campbell, R.  Edible South Florida Magasine, Winter 2017, Number 1, Volume 8.

Castronovo, D. , Castronovo Chocolate Factory, Stuart, Florida, conversations and texts May 2017. and website: http://www.castronovochocolate.com

Kiel, K. & Ornelas, K.,200, “North America from 1492 to the Present- Recent Developments in Foodways” The Cambridge World History of Food, Cambridge University Press, New York, NY, p. 1320.

Leissle, K, Invisible West Africa: The Politics of Single Origin Chocolate, Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, Vol. 13, No. 3 (Fall 2013), pp. 22-31 Published by: University of California Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/gfc.2013.13.3.22 .

Martin, Carla D. and  Sampek, Kathryn E , The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe. DOI: 10.18030/SOCIO.HU.2015EN.37.

MacNeil, K. , The Wine Bible,  2001, Workman Publishing, New York.

Martinez, K., Subtropical Research Geneticist, USDA ARS, Miami,  Florida, lab research tour, May 2017

Sethi, S. 2017, “Origin Made Chocolate: The Bars to Beat”, Wall Street Journal, web Feb 9, 2017.

Williams, P. & Eber, J., 2012,”To Market to Market: Craftsmanship,Customer Education, and Flavor Raising the Bar The Future of Fine Chocolate, pp 143- 209, Vancouver, BC Wilmor Publishing.

Winterstein, M. USDA ARS, Miami,  Florida, conversations and emails, May 2017

Websites:

Council of State Governments, http://www.csg-erc.org/blog/2017/04/10/first-look-president-trumps-usda-budget-2018/

Expert Enough Blog http://expertenough.com/973/chocolate

Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund http://finechocolateindustry.org/hcp

Jean Marie Auboine Handcrafted Chocolate Map https://www.jmauboinechocolates.com//

UM Walter Swingle information http://merrick.library.miami.edu/specialCollections/wtswingle/

USDA Agricultural Research website https://www.ars.usda.gov

USDA GRIN System: http://www.ars-grin.gov/npgs/

USDA Station History:https://www.ars.usda.gov/southeast-area/miami-fl/subtropical-horticulture-research/docs/history-of-chapman-field/

USDA https://reeis.usda.gov/reports-and-documents/cris-reports/cris-overview.

Trending Chocolate

In my last blog post, I showed how the transformation of chocolate is a reflection of the industrialization of the food industry, as chocolate moved from being a natural, healthy food to a processed item that barely resembles cacao. When we think of modern chocolate, the first thing that comes to mind is often Hershey’s and Mars. The ingredients in these products mark the epitome of highly processed, artificial food. However, there is a whole different market for chocolate out there that counters this type of chocolate. As the food industry has become industrialized and increasingly processed, people have started to become aware of the negative health effects of these foods. They are becoming cognizant of what they are eating and where their food is coming from. This has given rise to a new trend in diet and lifestyle, in which people aim to eat healthier, organic, natural and local foods. Research shows that the rise in organic food production is strongly correlated with knowledge about mass-produced food, including awareness of the public health, environmental and moral risks of the food industry (Guthman). People are looking for something healthy, and Whole Foods has captured this audience, becoming a hugely successful grocery store nationwide. The chocolate selection at Whole Foods is a reflection of this new food trend that directly counters the fast, processed food industry.

The central message of Whole Foods promotes a healthy, sustainable lifestyle. On their website, they claim to be America’s healthiest grocery store and describe eight core values: (1) sell the highest quality natural and organic product; (2) satisfy, delight and nourish customers; (3) support team member excellence and happiness; (4) create wealth through profits and growth; (5) serve and support their local and global communities; (6) practice and advance environmental stewardship; (7) create on-going win-win partnerships with suppliers; (8) promotes the health of stakeholders through healthy eating education. The first thing I noticed when I walked in the store was the emphasis on these values. The signs around the store read: Sweetened by nature, more organic choice everyday, supporting organic and sustainable farming and get more green. This, combined with the imagery around the store, pulls you into their world of health food. There are products for every new fad diet, including paleo, vegan, vegetarian, and most food is labeled as local, organic or natural. The store appears to be the picture of health, ethics and well-being, and it makes you feel like you will be too if you shop there. This plays directly into the mentality of food enthusiasts who oppose the fast food industry. As Guthman describes this consumer, “In contrast to the fast food eater, the reflexive consumer pays attention to how food is made, and that knowledge shapes his or her ‘taste’ towards healthier food” (Guthman). Extensive signs and labeling are intended to draw customers in and help determine which products they want to buy. All of these observations are reflected in the chocolate selection at Whole Foods.

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The first chocolate selection that I came upon was a shelf at the end of an aisle, as pictured to the right. The first thing that jumped out at me was the aesthetic of all the chocolate bars lined up. The bars displayed pictures of food, nature, and highlighted the words organic, natural and various other certifications to prove their quality. I then began to investigate each of the bars individually. For the purpose of comparison, I looked at the basic dark chocolate for each brand.

Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 7.18.05 PM.pngThe first bar I picked up was the Endangered Species brand, pictured to the left. The first thing that caught my attention was the face of a chimpanzee staring at me. This was not something I expected to see on a chocolate bar. The bar is described as natural dark chocolate with 72% cacao. The ingredient list reads as follows: bittersweet chocolate (chocolate liquor, cane sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla). This is a simple list, adding to the picture of being a natural chocolate. The certifications on the front are Fair Trade, Non-GMO project verified, certified gluten free and certified vegan. It also notes that they donate 10% of their profits, which is described further on the back. It says that by choosing this brand, you are supporting conservation programs worldwide. Each bar pictures a different engendered species, with information on that animal inside. This connects with the consumer on a moral level through the animals and certifications.

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Next, I looked at the Whole Foods brand bar, which did not have plain dark chocolate, so I picked the dark chocolate and almond bar, pictured to the right. What stood out first were the three pictures on the front, one of school children, another of a woman working, and the third of a cacao tree. It was labeled “Tanzania Schoolhouse Project” where “a portion of proceeds helps fund the education of children in the Kyela district of Tanzania.” This connects with the consumer on a moral level, making them feel they are making a difference by choosing this bar. It is interesting that this bar only used the term “a portion,” whereas the Endangered Species bar specifies that 10% of their profits are donated. Whole Foods also specifies their sugar is organic and fairly traded. On the front, they have a Whole Trade guarantee certification, which I had not seen before. Their website explains that the product must meet the following criteria: meet our strict product Quality Standards, provide more money to producers, ensure better wages and working conditions for workers, and care for the environment. They also have the USDA organic certification on the front and on they back specify that is it certified organic by Quality Assurance International. They note that it is a product of Belgium, but do not specify where the cacao comes from. The ingredients in this bar were: organic chocolate liquor, organic cane sugar, organic almonds, organic cocoa butter.

While these are just two examples of bars on the shelf, they show a trend. They market a sense of morality in choosing chocolate. Each company pledges to donate a portion of their profits to make a difference in the world, trying to make their bar unique. All of the bars on the shelf were decorated with certifications, including fair trade, organic, vegan, non-GMO and more. They were also similarly priced, each at around $3 for about 3 ounces. The last thing I noticed were the ingredient lists. They all had few ingredients, many of them labeled again as fairly traded or organic. I did not encounter a single refined sugar or ingredient that I could not pronounce, which speaks to the quality of the chocolate. This chocolate is far from the average Hershey’s bar, as each company has tried to make itself authentic and unique.

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The second section of chocolate in Whole Foods was a bit pricier, though was similar in terms of packaging, ingredients and certifications. One brand of interest was Taza, since it is a local company in Somerville. Having tasted this chocolate, I knew the texture was coarser than typical chocolate. It was labeled as stone ground, which suggests less processing, with more thought and effort put into the process. The bars on this shelf ranged from about $5-9 for roughly 2.5-3 ounces. The one bar that did not seem to fit in with the others was a brand called Mast, pictured above. The bar is simple, and the back lists the cacao percentage and ingredients. The bars contain cacao, cane sugar, sometimes an additional flavor and nothing else. I found this very intriguing, so I went to their website to investigate further. The company is located in New York and is owned by brothers Rick and Michael Mast. The design of the website was similar to the bar in its simplicity and lack of information. They claim to “source directly with regions around the world, looking for the rarest, complex and delicious cacao available. Mast pays far beyond commodity and fair trade minimums and has been instrumental in developing new growing regions.” However, they do not provide any further insight into where exactly they are sourcing their cacao. They do offer tours where you can learn more, so maybe they would reveal this information there. According to Rick Mast, “Our mission statement as a company is to provide locally produced craft chocolate…That’s it. We don’t need to design the packaging or do publicity to make sure people are educated in Singapore. That is the importance of the local food movement in general” (Williams and Eber). This is a unique philosophy in the current chocolate market. This bar stood out the most among all of the other brands that were trying so hard to distinguish themselves with promises or donations and certifications.

While Mast may not believe in them, certifications are definitely trending. The two most common themes were various fair trade and organic labels. Fair trade is a very complicated ongoing debate. Fairtrade is the most common fair trade label in the world (Sylla). While their intentions and values may be good, “It seems that the founders of Fairtrade unwittingly opened a Pandora’s box” (Sylla). After they became successful, many other labeling companies emerged and began competing with one another, each with different standards and no uniformity (Sylla). The actual effectiveness of a fair trade label is also questionable. Research shows that for one American consumer dollar spent on a fair trade product, the farmer in a developing country only makes three cents more than it would have otherwise (Sylla). However, consumers are not aware of all these issues, and thus when they see a fair trade label, assume that they are buying a more ethical product. The organic certification is less complicated but has a similar effect on the consumer. There has been a growth in consumer demand for organic-certified products, and people everywhere are willing to pay more for them (Williams and Eber). This holds true in the market for cocoa and chocolate according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (Williams and Eber). But what does this really mean? Williams and Eber describe this push for organic chocolate as a big misunderstanding. Organic cacao makes up only about .5% of the cacao market (Williams and Eber). There are a lot of hoops to jump through to get this certification, in addition to it being expensive. More than 90% of the cacao is grown by small families who cannot afford to go through this process. This also does not affect the flavor of the chocolate (Williams and Eber). The certifiers do not understand the process of making chocolate and thus do not adjust their standards accordingly. Small cacao farms are not the same as larger farms and use very few pesticides (Williams and Eber). Organic may in fact not matter in the chocolate industry and in some cases can decreases the quality of the flavor. Organic is just a certification that makes people feel better about buying the product, but in reality they are just government standards that may or may not be improving quality.

This trend does not seem to be unique to the U.S. Europe also underwent a similar industrialization of the food industry, as Hershey’s and Mars became the common chocolate (Martin and Sampeck). In order to combat the big companies and processed chocolate, bean-to-bar chocolate began to emerge, focusing on small-scale manufacturing and single origin fine cacao (Martin and Sampeck). To address the labor and sourcing of the cacao, certifications began popping up everywhere. However, certifications in Europe are being questioned as well. This seems to tell the same story that we have discovered in the U.S. Therefore, this issue is not unique to the U.S. but rather is a global issue surrounding the food industry.

The demand for quality in the chocolate industry has ultimately created a surge of certifications. This makes consumers feel that what they are getting is natural and ethical, and they feel better about it. But is this really what they are getting? It is hard to tell, but it seems like simply putting ever more certifications on bars has become a trend but is not necessarily ensuring a better product. However, in comparison to the highly processed chocolates made by Hershey’s or Mars, is is reasonable to assume that these are better quality. There is still more to be done in the market for quality chocolate. The Mast brothers have realized they don’t necessarily need all of these certifications to produce a quality bar, although they could be more transparent about their sourcing. The selection at Whole Foods demonstrated the trend in the chocolate market towards certifications and ethics, which is a worldwide issue.

 

References:

Guthman, Julie. “Fast food/organic food: Reflexive tastes and the making of ‘yuppie chow’.” Social & Cultural Geography 4.1 (2003): 45-58.

Hsia, Winnie. “What Is the Whole Trade Guarantee?” Whole Foods Market. N.p., 02 Oct. 2012. Web. 05 May 2017. http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/blog/what-whole-trade-guarantee.

“Learn.” Mast Brothers. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2017. https://mastbrothers.com/pages/learn.

Martin, Carla D., and Kathryn E. Sampeck. “The bitter and sweet of chocolate in Europe.” SOCIO. HU 2015.3 (2015): 37-60.

“Our Core Values.” Whole Foods Market. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2017. http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/mission-values/core-values.

Sylla, Ndongo. The fair trade scandal: Marketing poverty to benefit the rich. Ohio University Press, 2014.

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

*Pictures were taken by me at the Whole Foods on River Street in Cambridge.

Chocolate: Caloric Convenience or Conscientious Confection

Buying chocolate in America can be much like any other purchase in terms of the shockingly wide range of options, flavors, and price points made available to the consumer.  There are basic candies and bars that will satisfy a craving and there are expensive treats that claim to be so luxurious they go so far as to hint at the possibility of providing for a longer life (https://www.theochocolate.com/product/158).  All of these options are available under the name of chocolate and convenience.  This essay will focus on comparisons between only two candy aisles at two stores:  CVS and Whole Foods; both Fortune 500 companies, neither of which are confectioneries or chocolate houses.

CVS

CVS is a $117.4 billion (according to Forbes.com) drug retail company.  Not only are they the biggest retailer of prescription drugs and the second-largest pharmacy benefits manager in the U.S., but they also provide healthcare services through medical clinics and diabetes care centers.  In addition, they also sell chocolate.

True to their origins as a pharmaceutical vendor, when one walks into a CVS, it has a compact, efficient, and even slightly clinical look and feel.  The open space is brightly lit by overhead fluorescent lights, large red tags indicate where items can be found, and special offers and discounts are loudly displayed and announced overhead.  Even the retail staff members are dressed in white lab coats lending to the authenticity of a doctor’s waiting room.

This store prides itself on health, but also low prices and convenience.  It is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and offers weekly and even daily special discounts.  The candy aisle is located at the front of the store near the entrance, across from toys and other fun, spontaneous, instant-gratification type items and extras.  Additional chocolate items are lined up under a selection of gum at the register for last-minute impulse purchases, with sale prices highlighted to focus attention on the discount provided.

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Display at the CVS checkout counter. Candy bars, placed under the gum, are all on sale for $0.88 or buy one and get the second one at a 50% discounted price.

As one walks to the candy aisle, the packaging and marketing materials (mostly plastic) are immediately noticeable in bright colors, bold fonts, and large labels.  The branding, for most American customers, would be quickly recognized as all belonging to the “big chocolate” brands:  Hershey’s, Ferrero Rocher, Nestle, Mars, and Cadbury (Martin, “The rise”).

There are bars of chocolate, but the majority of products offered are blended with, or provide a shell coating over, less expensive products.  The iconic milk chocolate Hershey’s bar is showcased in the middle row at eye-level, sharing the shelf with Nestle Chunky bars (a chunky-shaped candy bar with milk chocolate, California raisins, and roasted peanuts). Nips (a hard candy, some of which contain a chocolate-flavored filling), Dove chocolate bars and Cadbury Dairy Milk bars are above.  Below are larger packages of bars, including:

  • Hershey’s Special Dark (a semi-sweet chocolate bar)
  • Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme (a white candy bar with pieces of chocolate-flavored cookies interspersed)
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (large chocolate coated peanut butter confections)
  • York Peppermint Patties (dark chocolate-covered soft peppermint disks)
  • Hershey’s Mounds (a dark-chocolate covered center made from shredded coconut)
  • Hershey’s Almond Joy (a milk chocolate-covered coconut-based center topped with almonds)
  • Mars Snickers (a milk chocolate-covered nougat topped with caramel and peanuts)
  • Mars Milky Way (a chocolate-covered chocolate malt flavored nougat with caramel)
  • Nestle Butterfinger (a chocolate-toffee-covered bar with a flaky, crisp, peanut butter-flavored center)

These items can be purchased individually; however, the majority of the products are in gradually increasing sizes and quantities with prices ranging from $0.39 to $0.89 an ounce.  While no great mention or display is made with regard to the ingredients, origin, manufacturing practices, ethical concerns, or quality of cacao in these products, three of the four Dove chocolate bars are stamped with the Rainforest Alliance certification.

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CVS aisle stocked mostly with large-packaged chocolates.

Based on the selection provided:  the absence of cacao mentioned, the presence of larger size packages, the heavy focus on additional ingredients such as nuts, fruits, and/or confections, and lower bulk prices that accompany them, etc., we learn that the CVS’s targeted audience has limited time and money to spend.  The intention is “caloric consumption,” grab and go convenience, a meal substitution or perhaps simply to ease a craving.

Whole Foods

Whole Foods is an $18.8 billion (according to Forbes.com) supermarket chain that claims to be “America’s Healthiest Grocery Store” (www.wholefoodsmarket.com).  Their goal is to sell the healthiest foods possible and offer products that are free of artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners, and hydrogenated fats.  There is a welcoming feel to the expansive space.  The lighting is warm without being harsh, the walls are lined with soft wood, posted signs are in uniformly calming tones, and helpful employees all wear green aprons.  It has the look and feel of an up-scale farmers market.

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Candy aisle at Whole Foods.

One can find the candy aisle located next to the produce section, across from organic baby foods, and adjacent to a beautiful display of organic “Whole Body” healing bath salts and soaps.  The chocolate bars (mainly bars and mostly dark, only a few milk chocolate or blended confections are offered) are wrapped in expensive papers and foils featuring endangered species, philanthropic organizations and specific causes, picturesque scenes or artistically created designs.

There are no “big chocolate” products to be found.

Each bar appears to have been hand-selected from a variety of artisanal chocolatiers.  Some are smaller than others, but all promise their own unique look, feel, story, and taste.

Instead of being recognized and advertised by known “big chocolate” brand names, these brands chose to focus instead on highlighting select ingredients and percentage of cacao.  Each bar clearly calls out the selected ingredients, origin and percentage of cacao as well as the origin and processing of any included ingredients.  Some examples include:

  • 45% cacao milk chocolate with Congo coffee and cream
  • 55% dark chocolate with chilies and cherries
  • 57% organic dark chocolate with sea salt and caramel
  • 60% dark stone ground chocolate with toffee almond and sea salt
  • 65% dark chocolate with forbidden rice
  • 70% organic fair trade dark chocolate with cherry almond
  • 70% dark chocolate bar with ancho chile, cinnamon, and orange
  • 72% cacao organic dark chocolate, cardamom, cinnamon, and chili
  • 88% cacao – extreme dark
  • 99% cacao

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Some of Whole Foods’ chocolate selection.

Ethical, health, and religious concerns are also addressed through seals of (sometimes multiple) certifications on each chocolate bar, such as: Demeter, Whole Trade, Fair Trade, Fair for Life, Direct Trade, Non GMO Project Verified, Oregon Tilth, Certified Gluten-Free, Rainforest Alliance, Taza Chocolate Direct Trade Certified Cacao, Dairy-Free, Soy-Free, Vegan, Kosher Dairy, and USDA Organic. If additional information is desired, the store has also placed a display rack at the entrance to the aisle featuring a free publication titled, “For a Better World, Issues & Challenges for a Just Economy.”  It even includes a reference guide to fair trade and worker welfare programs provided to educate customers and raise awareness levels of labor practices.

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Whole Foods’ chocolate selection.

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Fair World Project free magazine provided to customers at Whole Foods.

The price points reflect the additional information, attention to detail, and more expensive packaging.  Costs per ounce range from $0.59 to $3.85.  Not only are costs higher than CVS, but even the cost differential within Whole Foods’ offerings are significant.

Errol Schweizer, executive global grocery coordinator for Whole Foods Market, stated that “The fair trade chocolate category in our grocery departments has grown by more than 350 percent over the past five years. That’s a true indicator that ourshoppers are really making a positive impact on the lives of cocoa growers in developing countries” (Martin, “Alternative trade”).

The intended audience has time and money to spend.  Whole Foods has created a shopping experience that intentionally targets the “conscientious consumer,” someone who is educated on agricultural sourcing and labor practices – or would at least like to be.

These high-end chocolates are being provided for someone who wants to treat themselves to something delicious and feel good about it; a way of thinking that their self-indulgence (via the chocolate and price point) is making a positive impact on the world around them.

Ultimately, both stores sell chocolate while focusing on “health” and “healthier living”, albeit through very different lenses.  CVS provides chocolate and chocolate-coated items intended for mass consumption at a lower price point – making the process as quick and efficient as possible through placement and known brands.  Whole Foods provides high-end, more artisanal chocolates intended for indulgence at higher price points.  Their goal is to provide their customers with a buying experience – chocolate is located in the middle of the store (not as convenient for quick shops) and intended to have time to browse, read, and learn about different products and practices as part of a shopping routine.

 

Works Cited

Fair World Project. “For a Better World:  Issues & Challenges for a Just Economy.” Issue 12 Spring 2016.

Forbes.  The World’s Most Valuable Brands. http://www.forbes.com/companies/cvs-health/.  N.p. N.d. Web. 11 May 2016.

Martin, Carla D. “Alternative trade and virtuous localization/globalization.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 6 Apr. 2016. Class Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “Haute patisserie, artisan chocolate, and food justice: the future?” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 27 Apr. 2016. Class Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “The rise of big chocolate and race for the global market” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 9 Mar. 2016. Class Lecture.

Mintz, Sidney. 1986[1985]. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin Books.

Theo Chocolate, Inc.  Chocolate Bars. https://www.theochocolate.com/product/158. N.p. N.d. Web. 11 May 2016.

Whole Foods Market.  http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com. N.p. N.d. Web. 11 May 2016.

CVS vs. Whole Foods: Convenience or consciousness?

Introduction

CVS versus Whole Foods Market? Many, to include myself, would say hands down, there is no comparison or competition. Considering the distinctive customer, core values, accessibility of brands, ingredients, and price tags of chocolate displayed in each establishment, Whole Foods stands as bar none (no pun intended). According to Nielsen’s Global consumer study, which conducted a survey on snacking with a poll of 30,000 online consumers in 60 countries to identify what attributes were most important to them–in regards to consumption, confection (led by chocolate) accounted for $20 billion USD in sales (Nielsen 5). Furthermore, in a span of 30 days, 64% of global respondents consumed chocolate (6). Moreover, consumers chose chocolate second to fruit out of 47 snacking options as their favorite (6). Thereby, results concluded that in addition to chocolate being favored by consumers through mass consumption: chocolate is big business.

As one who adores all things Whole Foods, frequenting the store no less than ten times a week, yet also familiar with the convenient trappings of CVS, I tasked myself with curiosity in my search to examine the differences between these consumer giants more critically. In addition to online research of their histories and ethics, I perused the aisles to investigate their chocolate products, price points and distinctive experiences of each visit. Among obvious differences, my findings revealed incongruencies in the mission and ethics of one giant, and a resolve to the question of why each giant may serve a valid purpose beyond health consciousness.

History and Mission

For centuries chocolate has represented a broad range of symbolisms–including wealth, delicacy, medicinal healing, religious rituals, and pleasure. Over a period of the 16th through 20th century, Europe and New Spain produced 100 medicinal uses for cacao/chocolate, which included treatment of anemia, exhaustion, bowl dysfunction and skin irritations (Dillinger et al. 2057S). Today, we consume chocolate mainly for the purposes of pleasure and indulgence. This pleasure and indulgence is heightened by the allure of marketing and availability of chocolate products produced by manufacturers who have industrialized their brand for affordable global mass consumption and maximized profits. This industrial mass globalization of products were well represented in my visit to CVS, where I found the allure of chocolate advertisements and products to be excessive. In comparison, Whole Foods displayed a much smaller and more refined chocolate section.

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CVS Chocolate aisle

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CVS Chocolate products

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Whole Foods Chocolate section and products

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Consumer Value Stores (CVS), now CVS Health Corporation, was founded in 1963 by two brothers, and became the first store to sell health and beauty products, later expanding into pharmaceuticals and health management in 1967. CVSs mission statement reads: “Millions of times a day, close to home and across the country, we’re helping people on their path to better health” (CVS Health, Our Story).

With a closing revenue of $41.1 billion USD in 2015, a first quarter revenue of $20.1 billion USD as of March 2016 (Marketwatch), and the recent acquisition of Target’s pharmacies and clinics (CVS Health, History 2010s), CVS stands as the top national retail pharmaceutical company nationwide. Apart from their financial success, ethically I find their choice to sell Hershey, Nestle and Mars chocolate brands–all produced by GMO and child slave labor–where children are forced to pick cocoa beans to be sold to companies, beaten, abused and denied compensation for their work–to be deplorable and incongruent with their mission statement. From this, I can only assume that CVS is either ignorant to the truth that “better health” is not limited to pharmaceutical drugs and healthcare, but include the standards of ingredients of the food we consume. Moreover, “better health” should include and extend to the environmental conditions and treatment of labor workers who are responsible for creating chocolate for retail profit. The alternative possibility is that CVS just doesn’t care about the bean-to-bar process, rather reserving interest in chocolate reaching their shelves and retail portfolio. Overall, I find these possibilities to be the most disparate among these two giants.

In 1980 Whole Foods Market was founded by four local businessmen/women during a time when fewer than six natural food supermarkets existed in the United States. Their goal was to integrate the natural foods industry into a supermarket experience (Whole Foods Market, History). Today, Whole Foods Market closed 2015 with sales of $15 billion USD and reached $3.7 billion USD in sales the first quarter of this year. Their mission statement reads: “[H]ealthy means a whole lot more… [b]eyond good for you, to also encompass the greater good. [W]e offer a place for you to shop where value is inseparable from [our] values.” In line with their mission, they provide a list of unacceptable foods that contradict their values and standards, which they refuse to sell to their consumers.

Unlike CVS, Whole Foods value system is committed to creating health from a whole perspective, to include food consumption. Whole Foods prides the purchase of their chocolate through ethical sources (Whole Foods Market, Why Your Chocolate Choices Matter). In addition to their Organic Standards, which confirm a product has been produced through approved methods and met specific USDA verified requirements prior to labeling (Whole Foods Market, Organic), the foundation of their value system largely exists on Whole Trade. Whole Trade is a program which highlights their commitment to ethical trade, the environment and quality products sourced from developing nations (Whole Foods Market, Whole Trade). Many of the chocolate bars are also certified by Fair Trade USA, a nonprofit organization, and third-party certifier which audits and certifies transactions between domestic companies and their international suppliers, to ensure that farmers and workers are paid fair prices and wages, work in safe conditions, protect the environment and receive community development funds to empower and improve their communities (Whole Foods Market, Fair Trade).

In further alignment with their mission and values, in 2012, Whole Foods ended their relationship with Scharffen Berger Chocolate, a high-end product of Hershey’s, over child labor abuses (International Labor Rights Forum). As Hershey provided no evidence to disprove their use of child labor abuse in producing their product when requested, Scharffen Berger was removed from Whole Foods shelves nationwide. Although this move was considered just and honorable by many, Judy Gearhart, Executive Director of the International Labor Rights Forum, thought it to be contradictory. According to Gearhart, in more than one instance Whole Foods has “turned a blind eye” to the conduct of other suppliers who violate workers’ rights, by refusing to hold them equally accountable as Hershey (International Labor Rights Forum). Although there are arguments and critiques of the fairness involved in Fair trade, one being the exorbitant costs to farmers to attain certification for which they lack resources, I still view Whole Foods choice to partner with organizations and programs that pay attention and care about both the workers that produce the product, and the product ingredients, to be ethically honorable and socially responsible.

In data retrieved from Nielsen’s Global consumer study, respondents reported to care more about the ingredients which create their chocolate and preferring to “stick to the basics” (Nielsen 9). Nature-based ingredients scored 45% (9), but it was the environmentally conscious consumers that counted sustainability and organic among the most important in their snacking [experiences] (9). Based on these results, why do we continue to purchase chocolate from CVS?

Products and Price

In my visit to CVS, I had no challenge locating chocolate. From the registers near the front of the door leading to the aisle, I was surrounded by daunting quantities and advertisements of chocolate. Upon first observation, the magnitude of sale stickers and value buys that were gifted with increased quantities of purchase, were distracting. Noticeably leading in options were the Big Five chocolate competitors: Cadbury, Ferrero, Hershey’s, Mars and Nestle (the “Big Five”). The Big Five were the top five chocolate brand competitors who waged a chocolate war in China during the 1980’s – 90’s, with the purposes of introducing the then new product to Chinese consumers by creating a dominating brand presence. In the end, Mars emerged as the superior battle champion.
In CVS, the average cost of a chocolate bar was $2.50, with promotional sales for Buy 1- get-the 2nd 50% off and 2-for-$3.00. The lowest priced bar by Hershey’s Chocolate, cost $1.19. Shockingly, there was only one health conscious brand available, appearing to the far right: Endangered Species Chocolate. The Endangered Species Chocolate label advertised Fair Trade, Non-GMO Verified, Gluten Free Certified and Certified Vegan, at a modest price of $2.99 for 3 ounces. As socially conscious as Endangered Species Chocolate brand appears to be, with products rated at nearly five stars by consumers, I was disappointed when visiting their website that they chose to use an image of a young African child’s face to appear in connection to the phrase endangered species. Is there no consideration or awareness of how this image connotes racist beliefs about people of color? Moreover, is it their responsibility to be aware, or our responsibility to know the history of chocolate to bring awareness?

In my visit to Whole Foods, along with overwhelm and oversaturation of choices and products found at CVS, noticeably absent were the beloved Big Five. Available brands were Taza Chocolate, Icelandic Chocolate, Lake Champlain Chocolates and Whole Foods 365 Chocolate (to name a few). Though unfamiliar, I felt an instant attraction to these brands mainly due to the simplicity and sophistication of their wrappers and refined ingredients. Aesthetically and logistically, Whole Foods displays their chocolate in a small section–nestled amongst other products, with equal promotion. As there were sale advertisements on select chocolate products, similar to CVS of 2-for $3, the quality of chocolate was healthier and certified Fair Trade.

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Whole Foods sale advertisement for Organic and Fair Trade chocolate bars

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El Ceibo Fine Dark Chocolate Organic bars, $6.49.

The average price for a chocolate bar was $4.00 for 3 ounces. The most inexpensive bar was their Whole Foods 365 brand, boasting a label of Whole Trade and USDA Organic certifications at $2.49 for 3 ounces. The most expensive was $7.99 by El Ceibo, a fine dark chocolate brand from Bolivia. Although Ceibo’s label did not promote the popular certifications (e.g., Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, etc.) of their less expensive competitors, their core driving principle is environmentally sustainable production and respect for life, cultures and the environment. While fine chocolate is expected to be more expensive, do higher prices equal a better product?… According to Clay Gordon, creator of the chocolate lover’s website, The Chocolate Life, and internationally recognized independent authority on all things chocolate: Not so. Gordon states that “[although certain] bars might cost significantly more than… [CVS at] $7 [plus] per bar, [it is] because [you are] paying a fair price that actually accounts for the labor, shipment, and processing of the beans, instead of one artificially subsidized by abusive practices” (Shanker, 2013). Nevertheless, the ingredients of both bars pictured below bare clear distinctions of unknown ingredients, versus whole ingredients available in our kitchens and local supermarkets.

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Cadbury Daily Milk Chocolate bar,  $2.19.

 

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Cadbury Daily Milk Chocolate label ingredients, most artificial

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Whole Foods 365 Organic Dark Chocolate Almond bar, certified Whole Trade and USDA Organic, $2.49.

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Whole Foods 365 Organic Dark Chocolate Almond bar, certified Whole Trade and USDA Organic label ingredients, all localized and natural

Conclusion

In conclusion, I am left to wonder if the most overlooked distinction between CVS and Whole Foods is the why and how we choose to consume chocolate? A trip for snacks is usually a quick in-and-out venture that can happen anytime of the day or night. Avoiding the possibility of long lines at the grocery store is a deterrent. Nielsen reported 58% of consumers do not plan their snack purchases (Nielsen 13) and prefer them at arms-reach (15); with 31% purchased at the check-out counters; and 43% on sale (13). While chocolate sales do not affect my purchase choices, I admit that as much I love Whole Foods, when my sweet tooth aches for candy, I don’t immediately consider healthy options. Instead I beeline for convenience and the uber unconscious Snickers with Almonds, Raisinets, Almond M&M’s and Tootsie Rolls (not all at once, promise) – which are all available at CVS. However, on the days when I am more health conscious about my chocolate choices, I intentionally visit Whole Foods for my favorite Dark Chocolate and Almonds Bar with Sea Salt by Chocolove. I admit that there is a difference in how I feel when I purchase and indulge in my beloved Chocolove bar in comparison to Snickers and Kit Kat from CVS. In addition to taste and quality, the most important difference is that purchasing from Whole Foods feels more deliberate and rewarding–knowing that my investment in my personal wellness extends to the social, economic and financial wellness of others.

Both CVS and Whole Foods hold clear and distinct ideas and values on health, wellness and integrity. However, I count leading a company whose integrity corresponds with the brands they market and sell to their consumers as the greatest distinction. As a supermarket, Whole Foods has not limited their product offerings to just food; medicinal and healthcare products are also made available to their customers. In view of that fact, why does CVS limit their offerings of health and wellness to pharmaceutical products and healthcare? Perhaps as we continue to rise socially and globally to the occasion of conscious responsibility for our wellness and environmental safety, CVS will revisit their mission and branding to fully align the practices of chocolate manufacturers’ with their intent to “… help people on their path to better health.” In the meantime, I will continue my occasional beeline visits to conveniently fulfill my moments of unconscious consumption.

Citations

CVS Health. Web. 9 May 2016.

“CVS Health Reports First Quarter Results; Confirms 2016 Adjusted EPS Guidance.” Marketwatch Online, 2016. Web. 9 May 2016.

Dillinger, T.L. et al. “Food of the Gods: Cure for Humanity? A Cultural History of the Medicinal and Ritual Use of Chocolate.” The Journal of Nutrition 130 (2000): 2057S-2072S. Web. 9 May 2016.

Nielsen. “Snack Attack. What Consumers are reaching for around the world.”  September 2014. Web PDF. 9 May 2016.

Shanker, Deena. “A Guide to ethical chocolate.” Grist, 13 Feb. 2002. Web. 9 May 2016.

Whole Foods Market. Web. May 2016.

“Whole Foods Drops Hershey’s Scharffen Berger Chocolates Over Child Labor Abuses.” International Labor Rights Forum. Press Releases, 2012. Web. 9 May 2016.

Comparing Chocolate: CVS versus Whole Foods Market

Earlier in the semester, we discussed how consumers may have as much responsibility as companies when it comes to impacting the social and ethical concerns surrounding chocolate. Some of these concerns are classism, unethical forms of labor and fair wages for cacao farmers. One way to study these issues is by focusing on a store and seeing what selection it offers; this post will discuss these issues surrounding chocolate and consumerism by looking at two retail chains, namely CVS and Whole Foods.

CVS

CVS is a pharmacy retailer with more than 9,600 stores in the United States, making it one of the top hundred drugstores in the nation (“Company”). In addition to offering pharmacy services, it usually contains an extensive retail portion in the store. Most CVSs are large enough to have an aisle dedicated to snacks and chocolate. If not, they are sure to include chocolate in the bins near the registers. In this post, we will first look at the chocolate aisle. Unsurprisingly, we see the Big Five: Ferrero, Nestle, Mars, Hershey’s and Cadbury. Most were fairly affordable as they ranged from roughly $1 to $6. The more expensive chocolate, however, were fairly large bags of chocolate consisting of at least 8 ounces of chocolate or more (up to 20 ounces). The selection ranged from individually wrapped chocolates in large bags to single chocolate bars. CVS also offered ways to cut down costs, often applying “Buy 2 Get 1 Free” deals or “Buy 2 for $6” deals. From this, it seems that CVS targets people who are less willing to spend exorbitant amounts on chocolate and are looking for convenience and value instead.

CVS Aisle
An image of the chocolate aisle at CVS. There was a mix of single bars, super-sized bars and bags of chocolate.

An interesting part was that CVS offered “Premium Chocolates” at the end of the aisle. While the unit price in the aisle chocolate did not usually exceed $0.80, the “premium” chocolates often had unit prices of around $0.95 to $1.39. Although one of the Big Five, it seems that Ferrero appeals to a slightly different audience that may spend more on chocolate, as a product line of Ferrero, Ferrero Rochers, were designated as “premium.” Some brands in this section were Lindt and Ghirardelli, with a large majority being Lindt chocolate bars. Lindt and Ghirardelli are both products of the Swiss company Lindt & Sprüngli. Lastly, most of the chocolate offerings were dark chocolate, often labeled “intense” or incorporating other flavors such as spice and fruits. As we will later see, even these “premium” chocolates were cheaper than the majority of the chocolates sold at Whole Foods.

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One side of the “Premium Chocolate” section at CVS.

The cheaper price point of chocolate is a double-edged sword. Although the ability to provide cheap chocolate has extremely negative connotations associated with it such as child slavery and other unethical practices, cheap price points allow for chocolate to be distributed to a wider amount of people. This helps negate discriminating against certain classes. First, we can discuss how chocolate manufacturers are able to get such cheap prices and the history behind this. One important factor was industrialization. Goody notes that four immediate factors made this possible: 1) preserving, 2) mechanization, 3) retailing (and wholesaling) and 4) transport (72). Because of industrialization, foods like chocolate were able to be shared worldwide and costs were able to be decreased. Compared to its initial beginnings as an upper-class commodity in Europe and North America in the 1600’s, chocolate has been significantly democratized in terms of price and accessibility (Coe & Coe 138).

This desire to drive down prices was also historically relevant, especially with the Big Five as they competed against each other for larger market shares. For example, in the early 1900s, Frank Mars originally depended on Hershey’s for their chocolate coating, but eventually stopped contracting out this manufacturing need. Frank Mars wanted total control of his chocolate, so that he could go head-to-head with Hershey (Brenner 181). Thus, we see the results of this fierce competition as the chocolate prices are quite comparable for the most part among these giants.

While capitalism and industrialization have helped democratize chocolate, there are also ethical concerns associated with such low price points. One of the largest ethical concerns are the types of labor used to farm the cacao. Big Chocolate, especially, has had trouble with this. In 2001, a scandal erupted with headlines saying that American chocolate was made from child slavery (Off 139). Many Big Chocolate companies were blind-sided and U.S. companies like Mars and Hershey’s “insisted that the cocoa chain in Cote d’Ivoire was outside their control” (140). Despite this pushback from the industry, the Harkin-Engel Protocol came to fruition.

chocolate_slavery_main
A young child raking cacao beans as they dry.

The Harkin-Engel Protocol was a fully voluntary arrangement for regulating industry in the U.S. In this agreement, chocolate companies agreed to follow this program to “eliminate child slave labour in the cocoa chain” (144). Although well-intentioned, it ran into many obstacles including but not limited to: debates on what was considered child slavery, lack of increase in farmers’ wages, meddling by Big Chocolate to downplay the scandal, and not meeting the deadline of 2005 to eliminate slavery (145-46). Carol Off says the Harkin-Engel Protocol was significant in that it forced the chocolate industry to recognize forced child labour, but it “amount[ed] to window dressing” (161).

There has been a history of slavery in chocolate and it shouldn’t be ignored by consumers. For example, in the 1900s, Cadbury was scandalized for its cacao grown by forced laborers in São Tomé and Príncipe. Although industry and government should perhaps try to combat this, consumers also have the power to influence the market through their purchases. Thus, evaluating the history of chocolate as well as its present situation helps consumers make more educated decisions in their purchasing.

Lastly, something to note was the chocolate selection offered near the registers. Compared to the chocolate selection in the aisles, the chocolate near the registers were smaller and thus, cheaper on the whole. However, while these items near checkout account for only 1% of a store’s final sales, they account for 4% of its profits. Hershey’s and other big chocolate manufacturers took note of this and have implemented ways to profit from the psychological effect of chocolate. For example, Hershey’s has conducted research on “chocolaty gratification” to study why people are so apt to buy items near checkout and have increased the visibility of their products near the register (Harwell). At CVS, there were either bins of chocolates on the counter itself or below the counter.

CVS Register
The chocolate selection near the checkout area at CVS.

Whole Foods

Compared to CVS, Whole Foods Market is a supermarket chain with about 300 to 400 stores in the United States. It focuses on selling foods that are “free of artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners, and hydrogenated fats.” In their company values, they promote quality and the well-being of their customers (“Quality”). There is an overall emphasis on health and “natural, whole” foods and ingredients, appealing to a certain niche market.

Whole Foods Aisle
The chocolate section at Whole Foods.

The chocolate section in Whole Foods seemed smaller than CVS’s. Whereas the chocolate in CVS seemed to take up one whole aisle, the Whole Foods chocolate section was only a portion of the aisle. First, I noticed the lack of Big Five’s products. Instead, there were some recognizable products from smaller brands. Some of these brands included Taza Chocolate, Green & Black’s, Theo Chocolate, Pure7 Chocolate, and Not Your Sugar Mama’s. Several of these brands were also local, such as Pure7 Chocolate and Taza Chocolate.

Whole Foods Taza
A portion of the chocolate section dedicated to Taza Chocolate, a local chocolatier in Somerville, MA.

In discussing the market of CVS versus Whole Foods, Whole Foods appeals to a different customer who 1) is willing to spend more on chocolate, 2) is health-conscious, and 3) is perhaps conscious about forms of labor and the purity of the ingredients. Off the bat, the prices of the chocolates at Whole Foods were more expensive. Although there were $6 bags of chocolate sold at CVS, it was a bulk purchase. However, in Whole Foods, for $6.99 it was a 2 oz. bar of chocolate. As education grows around chocolate, there seems to be an increasing trend of people who are willing to spend more for a luxury item. High prices don’t necessarily mean that chocolate may be “slave-free,” though, or fully ethical; high prices aren’t the end-all-be-all situation for ameliorating the ethical concerns surrounding chocolate. However, these smaller companies often pay farmers much more, sometimes triple the price, for their beans, suggesting that these smaller chocolatiers are trying to address some of these labor and wage issues (Martin). Taza Chocolate, in particular, is known for its “Taza Direct Trade” philosophy where there is transparency for the consumer about the farmer’s wages.

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A few chocolate brands that market certain health benefits of chocolate or sugar-substitutes.

In addition to labels concerning fair prices and labor practices, there are also labels more oriented towards health-conscious consumers. For example, there was an abundance of chocolates labeled as “USDA Organic” and “Non-GMO Certified.” At CVS, there were much fewer chocolates if at all with these labels. Furthermore, many of these chocolates were labeled as “antioxidant-rich superfoods,” suggesting that chocolate is a healthy food. In addition, many chocolates marketed their sugar-free alternatives. For example, Pure7 emphasizes its use of honey as a sugar alternative.

Health and chocolate have had a long relationship, so it is unsurprising that a health-conscious store would select chocolates that tout its health benefits. The Mesoamericans (the Olmec, Maya and Aztecs) were known for their medicinal uses of cacao, which were often recorded by Europeans in the 1500s. For example, Fray Bernardino de Sahagún wrote the Florentine Codex (1590), documenting detailed cacao prescriptions for ailments such as infection, diarrhea and cough used by the Aztec (Dillinger et al.). Europeans adopted some of these medical uses and also applied their Galenic theory of hot, cold, wet, and dry onto cacao in the 1600s. Health and chocolate still have strong ties today. Most recently, in 2007, Norman Hollenberg associated chocolate with the low blood pressure in the Kuna people. However, James Howe, an anthropologist, criticizes medical research for its sometimes unilateral methods and oversimplification when dealing with communities of people (Howe 50). Lastly, some scientists have further explored the clinical benefits of chocolate some of them being: cardioprotection by improving endothelial function, enhanced antioxidant defenses, mood elevation, and anti-inflammatory effects (Castell 265).

Evaluating two different stores with different markets in terms of chocolate consumers reveals a lot about consumers’ habits. Whole Foods was, on the whole, more expensive, but had more labels and fewer added ingredients in their chocolate. However, its chocolate was more expensive, perhaps excluding those who are unable or unwilling to spend over $6 for a bar of chocolate. CVS, on the other hand, had more bulk chocolate at more affordable prices. This high price versus low price shouldn’t be the only focus, though, as high prices don’t necessarily correlate with fairer practices. For example, labeling can often be vague or unclear about its purposes and methods. Perhaps through better education about chocolate and food, one can make more socially conscious purchases as well as be aware of certain marketing ploys, whether it be in stores like CVS or stores like Whole Foods.


Works Cited

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

Castell, Margarida, Jean-François Bisson and Francisco Perez-Cano. “Clinical Benefits of Cocoa: An Overview.” Chocolate in Health and Nutrition. Ed. Ronald Watson, Victor Preedy, and Sherma Zibadi. N.p.: Springer, n.d. 265-75. Print.

Coe, Sophie, and Michael Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2000. Print.

“Company Information, Facts & Figures.” CVS Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2016. <http://cvshealth.com/about/cvs-health-at-a-glance&gt;.

Dillinger, Teresa, Patricia Barriga, Sylvia Escárcega, Martha Jimenez, Diana Lowe, and Louis Grivetti. “Food of the Gods: Cure for Humanity? A Cultural History of the Medicinal and Ritual Use of Chocolate.” The Journal of Nutrition 130.8 (2000): 20575-0725. Web.

Goody, Jack. “Industrial Food: Towards the Development of a World Cuisine.” Food and Culture: A Reader. Ed. Carole Counihan and Penny Esterik. New York: Routledge, 1997. 72-90. Print.

Harwell, Drew. “Hershey’s Plan to Hook Americans onto Impulse-buying Chocolate Again.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.

Howe, James. “Chocolate and Cardiovascular Health: The Kuna Case Reconsidered.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture 12.1 (2012): 43-52. Web.

Martin, Carla. “Haute Patisserie, Artisan Chocolate, and Food Justice: The Future?” African and African American Studies 119x Lecture. Tsai Auditorium, Cambridge. 27 Apr. 2016. Lecture.

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

“Quality Standards.” Whole Foods Market. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2016. <http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/quality-standards&gt;.

Chocolate at Whole Foods: Emergence of Bean to Bar Chocolate in America

With the distinction of being one of the largest grocery store chains in the United States, and a store that has begun expansion into other countries around the world, one would expect such a company to carry goods from the largest food manufacturers as well. However, at Whole Foods Market, chocolate or candy from the “Big 5” chocolate companies was entirely missing, and the candy shelves were instead stocked with the products of smaller companies. These smaller companies are part of a new “bean to bar” trend in the United States, where chocolate bars are often organic and produced in much smaller amounts. These companies often take part in Fair Trade Programs, which help many people in the chocolate supply chain but is also intended to appeal to the emotions of consumers. Apart from the three candy displays many other foods, drinks, and supplements were chocolate flavored, representative of a much larger phenomenon in America which sees the vast majority of the population enamored with the taste of chocolate. At the Star Market in Back Bay less than a five minute bike ride away, candy from Hershey’s, Mars, Nestle, Cadbury, and Ferrero can all be found in abundance and at a far lower price than candy at Whole Foods.  At the Symphony Hall Whole Foods Market in Boston, the chocolate shelves were filled with small to mid-size chocolate makers, and lacks entirely representation of the “Big 5” chocolate companies. This represents a greater trend in America which has seen smaller “bean to bar” chocolate companies become more popular with trendy consumers. Part of this movement involves the participation in many fair trade, organic, non-GMO and other programs by chocolate companies in part in an attempt to appeal to the emotions of the consumer. However, with people willing to pay the higher prices these products command, with many other non-candy items being flavored by chocolate, and with an abundance of large manufacturer chocolate found at Star Market it is clear that Americans still very much love chocolate.

Not being someone who regularly shops at Whole Foods, upon entering the store to inspect its chocolate selection I was fully expecting to see Hershey’s Bars, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and Milky Way Bars but instead, there was not a single one of the “Big 5” chocolate companies’ products in the store. For decades Hershey’s, Nestle, Ferrero, Cadbury, and Mars have dominated the American chocolate market creating cheap but subpar confections which were mass produced. This resulted in chocolate selection being very homogenous, with large batches of chocolate produced from large amounts multiple-origin cacao being normal operating practice for the majority of chocolate companies. Although these companies still dominate the U.S. chocolate market, their absence from one of America’s largest supermarkets indicates a change taking place, away from these large manufacturers. Filling this gap left in the market is an increasing number of “bean to bar” chocolate companies. “Bean to bar” companies are a relatively new phenomenon, in which owners of the company have far more control over all production process than at most chocolate companies. Contrary to the “Big 5”, these owners often personally inspect all ingredients and machines involved in the chocolate making process which ensures a finer quality product.  Many of these companies also visit cacao farms, or otherwise attempt to ensure farmers and other workers are treated fairly and compensated fairly, as they may be exploited in the mostly third-world countries where cacao is grown. In the case study “Chocolate and Slavery: Child Labor in Cote D’Ivoire” by Samlanchith Chanthavong the child labor issue in the leading producer of cacao, The Ivory Coast, is examined and indicates that there is a very severe crisis in the labor behind the chocolate market (Chonthavong 2002). The fair trade programs chocolate companies participate in are crucial to helping stop this exploitation.

Taza Chocolate is a local example of a bean to bar chocolate company, and an example for others to follow.
Taza Chocolate is a local example of a bean to bar chocolate company, and an example for others to follow.

Over the past decade, Americans have come to understand that our country has an issue with obesity, and as a result many consumers choose to buy healthier foods with less sugar, and often with organic or more natural ingredients. These consumers still seek to eat great tasting foods but like to know that they were made with natural ingredients and if possible the origin of those ingredients. This trend is seen on the candy shelves of Whole Foods with companies such as Taza, Theo, and Pure7 who all produce chocolate with very few, all-natural ingredients and with a far higher cacao content than mainstream chocolate bars. In “The True History of Chocolate,” by Sophie and Michael Coe, the story of one such company called Rain Republic is analyzed and shows the ideas behind these companies, the many challenges they face, and the positive impact they have. The company’s founder Josh Sermos began as a cacao and coffee buyer in Guatemala, and began learning everything he could about chocolate. After purchasing the expensive and hard to find equipment necessary to make chocolate, like most small companies Sermos had trouble making the right bar as many in the chocolate industry are very secretive. However, after several years he learned how to produce high quality bars, and by working directly with farmers and other workers, he was able to deliver a delicious product and a safe supply chain(Coe & Coe 1996). This story is very similar to local Boston Company Taza chocolate, whose owner became fascinated witch chocolate after moving to Mexico, and who works very hard with farmers to ensure they are fairly compensated.

Simultaneously, a growing number of consumers are also becoming concerned with the supply chain of the products they purchase to make sure all workers in this chain are treated and compensated fairly. Stemming from a seemingly endless myriad of horror stories related to the exploitation of third world workers and child slavery (something commonly associated with the chocolate industry for centuries), the not so distant history of widespread slavery, and a lack of worker’s rights around the developing world all help to create and increase the empathy some American consumers have for such people. Partly due to these reasons organizations such as Fair Trade USA were formed, who guarantee fair compensation for all workers they do business with. Once a Fair Trade

Display of Whole Foods chocolate with
Display of Whole Foods chocolate with “Whole Trade” pamphlet which states “Improving lives with every purchase”.

Certified Company, businesses are allowed to display the Fair Trade Seal on their products, which will appeal to this concerned customer base. In response to this trend and several issues some have with the fair trade organization, many companies such as Taza Chocolate form their own fair trade organizations, or join already existing organizations which catalyzes the Fair Trade movement. This, combined with the knowledge of where products are grown and the terroir of the product give the consumer a connection to that location, as well as the worker because the consumer also knows the worker is fairly treated and compensated.

During the past several years, some companies have realized this connection is what consumers desire and have marketed their chocolate accordingly. This is achieved through the separation of cacao by the location of origin, and only using one specific crop of cacao creating an “Ivorian” or “Venezuelan” bar, or wherever that specific cacao is from. This is conveyed to the consumer using the bar’s wrapper, indicating the source of that particular chocolate’s cacao. This is often combined with artwork representative of that location. In Bill Nesto’s “Discovering Terroir in the World of Chocolate,” he discusses the realities of

Front and back of Mast Brothers chocolate made from single origin Madagascar cacao beans, with design of wrapper reflecting and advertising this origin, and description on the back helps build terroir.
Front and back of Mast Brothers chocolate made from single origin Madagascar cacao beans, with design of wrapper reflecting and advertising this origin, and a description on the back helps build terroir.

chocolate terroir as he sees them: although the great distance between cacao farms and chocolate factories as well as the processes which yield chocolate from cacao threaten the chocolate’s terroir, he concludes that “The more control man has over the entire chain of production from plant to product, the better man can pre-serve terroir.” He also concludes that the term terroir can indeed be applied to chocolate companies who have complete control over all materials and processes (and for him companies where production facilities are very close to farms) (Nesto 2010). This trend is seen in other parts of the food industry such as the coffee industry, where single origin coffee is growing steadily in popularity, much in the same way as chocolate. Some chocolate bars in addition to some type of fair trade certification will also have a short testimonial, biography and/or picture of a worker in their supply chain, creating an even deeper connection. The connection is finalized by the terroir of the chocolate bar. Terroir is the combination of factors including soil, sunlight, and climate that give foods their own distinct flavors. Using single origin cacao and making chocolate in small batches allows the consumer to taste and experience the subtle flavors or a specific region in a way that a chocolate bar made with mixed-origin cacao, such as a Hershey’s bar, does not allow.

While this new small batch chocolate trend has interested customers in chocolate in a new way by using terroir, America’s love of chocolate is long entrenched and can be observed all throughout the Whole Foods Market. First, although there are only three displays of chocolate bars, the quality of those bars is very high and the displays are placed strategically around the store to catch the eye of someone who perhaps did not come into the store to buy chocolate. This is a strategy used in supermarkets across the U.S. in response to chocolate being something Americans will purchase on an impulse for themselves, rather than only as a gift for others (as is largely the custom in Asian markets). As a result, chocolate and chocolate confections can also be found at each cash register in Whole Foods. Besides chocolate bars, many other products are chocolate flavored and chocolate can be found in these products all throughout the store.

Checkout line at whole foods containing organic chocolate and chocolate confections from
Checkout line at whole foods containing organic chocolate and chocolate confections from “Justin’s” and “Lake Champlain Chocolates”.

Even in the health supplement aisle, products flavored with chocolate can be found in abundance. In that aisle many energy bars, nutrition bars, nutrition shakes, and other products are chocolate flavored, or contain chocolate chips. Chocolate also sees heavy representation in the desert selection at Whole Foods. In the baking aisle chocolate chips, powder, syrup, baking chocolate and other products as well as mixes for brownies, cakes etc. allow customers to enjoy chocolate in desert that they can make at home. At the market’s bakery, customers can purchase a variety of pre-made chocolate desserts and confections from chocolate cakes to chocolate truffles. Even items such as chocolate milk, chocolate chip waffles, chocolate muffins, chocolate cereal, chocolate pastries and many other breakfast foods allow one to enjoy chocolate from the first thing they eat in the morning to the last thing they eat at night. With more chocolate flavored products or products containing chocolate than I can note after multiple visits to the store it is very clear that American consumers love chocolate and that the medium of enjoyment is much more diverse than only a chocolate bar.

In contrast to the chocolate selection at Whole Foods, the selection at Star Market in Boston’s Back Bay reaffirms the domination of the American chocolate market by the “Big 5” chocolate companies. Found on the shelves are representatives from all five companies, and at a price that is far lower than most chocolate at Whole Foods. At whole foods, I purchased two chocolate bars for a combined 5.7 ounces and a combined $9.49, while at Star Market if I wanted to I could have purchased four Hershey’s Almond Chocolate bars for a combined 27.2 ounces and a combined $8.80-a very stark contrast (Whole Foods also carries Mast Brothers chocolate which is $9.99 for 2.5 oz).

Large amounts of Hershey's bars at Star Market, a pack of six bars costs half the price of one Mast Brothers bar.
Large amounts of Hershey’s bars at Star Market, a pack of six bars costs half the price of one Mast Brothers bar.

There is also a much larger amount of chocolate overall in Star Market, showing perhaps that outside of the organic food world chocolate is bought in greater quantities, possibly because the supply is much higher (because most chocolate is not organic).  Despite this large-manufacturer domination, Star Market also has a natural foods section with a limited selection of small bean to bar options available to customers, most of which can also be found at whole foods (Divine, Theo, Chocolove, Lake Champlain Chocolates etc). In Julie Guthman’s article “Fast food/organic food: reflexive tastes and the making of ‘yuppie chow’” she analyzes the early “ethical eating” countertrend that led to organic food and its opposition to fast food and manufactured food (Guthman 2002). These movements have expanded greatly and now, most supermarkets have at least one aisle of only organic products, and have many other products throughout the store which bear the USDA Organic seal. The biggest similarities between the two stores are the overwhelming presence of chocolate across multiple product types, and the placement of chocolate near registers which shows America’s deep infatuation with chocolate. The selection at Star Market also helps to put the selection at Whole Foods in Context: although the bean to bar trend is gaining a foothold in the U.S. marketplace, the shelves at mainstream stores and the American chocolate market are still dominated by large manufacturers.

At Symphony Hall Whole Foods Market in Boston, the lack of large manufacturer and inclusion of bean to bar chocolate companies are part of an organic trend taking place in the United States. Part of this movement involves the participation by companies in fair trade organizations, and with an increased focus on single origin crops in an attempt to experience the terroir of specific regions. However, the chocolate selection at Star Market in Boston’s Back Bay reaffirms the domination of the American Chocolate Market by the “Big 5” chocolate companies. Across both stores, the incredibly large amount of other non-candy products that are chocolate flavored or contain chocolate show that America is still very much in love with chocolate, and that chocolate permeates almost all aspects of the American food industry.

Works Cited:

Chanthavong, Samlanchith. “Chocolate and Slavery: Child Labor in Cote D’Ivoire.” TED Case Studies 664 (2002). Print.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996. Print.

Guthman, Julie. “Fast Food/organic Food: Reflexive Tastes and the Making of ‘yuppie Chow”” Social & Cultural Geography 1 (2003): 45 — 58. Print.

Nesto, Bill. “Discovering Terroir in the World of Chocolate.” Gastronomica 10.1 (2010): 131-35. Print.

Multimedia Sources:

Cullen, Matt. “Hershey’s in Bulk”. 2015.

Cullen, Matt. “Mast Brothers”. 2015.

Cullen, Matt. “Taza Chocolate”. 2015.

Cullen, Matt. “Whole Foods Checkout”. 2015.

Cullen, Matt. “Whole Trade”. 2015.