I had a lot of negative things to say about the big four chocolate firms, who continue to control the majority of the market worldwide (though their proportion of said market is shrinking). But on the other hand, I don’t feel any shame in acknowledging that these businesses have a lot going for them as well. In spite of the fact that these aspects do not in any way outweigh many of the negative things that they do within the chocolate industry, they are frequently undervalued in the world of craft chocolate. This is especially the case given that our primary goal is to steer people away from inexpensive chocolate and the inexpensive ingredients that go into producing it.
However, there are times when it is necessary to examine the chocolate sector as a whole in order to determine what is best for all parties involved. It is not possible for all cacao to be of the exquisite taste variety, nor can it be expected that every chocolate would be pricey. Everyone who has two eyes, a nose, and a mouth is a potential customer for chocolate, therefore we need to take into account the requirements of this market. In light of this, let’s take a look at seven ways in which the mass market chocolate business has contributed to the betterment of the world and may even be assisting the artisan chocolate industry.
Hershey, Mars, Kraft, and Nestle, who are considered to be the “big four” chocolate businesses, each invest millions of dollars every year into research, which is essential to the survival of the chocolate industry. There are potentially thousands of minor issues that could arise anywhere along the supply chain, from the farm to the pocket of the final consumer, and the businesses that have large amounts of capital to invest in the elimination of these issues are actually doing a lot of good for the entire industry as a whole. They put a lot of money into research to figure out how to stop fungus from growing on crops, how to shade trees without causing them to leak resources, and how to solve many other issues that occur on cocoa fields. In addition to this, they have worked out the most efficient ways of shipping, marketing strategies, and the preferences of customers. Even while not all of the information that is discovered via the research efforts of large chocolate firms will be helpful to smaller craft chocolate companies, it is nevertheless vital to recognize the paths that large chocolate companies have made for excellent chocolate.
2. Building a Foundation
In a related vein, major chocolate manufacturers have not only financed a large number of studies and research initiatives that give new perspectives on chocolate on a variety of fronts, but they have also initiated conferences and other meetings at which these discoveries may be discussed. It’s fantastic that people can learn new things and network at the same time, but it’s also excellent because it’s offered models for artisan chocolate to host our own events. This has helped educate and build a foundation for the craft chocolate community by providing, in many different ways, a solid foundation of best practices and expectations (speakers, workshops, Q&A’s, tastings, etc.). This has contributed to the education and foundation building of the craft chocolate community.
3. Familiar Flavor
Our is without a doubt the single most essential point on this list; nevertheless, it is also the most self-evident. The chocolate industry as a whole has introduced chocolate’s fundamental taste to billions of people all over the world, including those who live in cocoa-growing countries. Everyone who has ever had a Mars bar or a Nestle chocolate has the basis necessary to learn about handmade chocolate and begin purchasing it, should they so desire. This is because they are aware of the nuanced taste that simply cannot be replicated in a laboratory. On the other hand, people are able to continue getting their dose from inexpensive chocolate, which ideally will continue to improve its ethics on its own terms as time goes on.
4. Establishing The Good
This one is a little out there, but one thing that Big Chocolate does very well is offer up a sort of “bad guy” for people to point to when explaining how different fine, craft, and bean-to-bar chocolate is from what the majority of people eat. Big Chocolate does this by selling chocolate bars that are made from cocoa beans. It may come out as a jab at these large corporations, and I guess that it is, but every character in a novel needs an antagonist and a “before” image to point to. There are four main characters to pick from in the chocolate business, and several minor actors on the opposite side of the market to take into consideration as well.
5. Dispersing The Good
The fact that Big Chocolate has such a large market share in terms of both geography and demographics has, in many respects, enabled it to contribute to the dissemination of positive ideas and values. I don’t mean promoting a healthy body image or anything else of the sort; rather, I’m referring to the messages of fair trade and organic food, which, despite the fact that they might not necessarily make the biggest difference for farmers, put customers on the path to learning more about the food they eat (chocolate and otherwise).
When young children see a label that says “fair trade” or “organic,” they are more likely to question their parents about it and begin a conversation about things like working conditions, chemicals, and other related topics. As a rule, craft chocolate adheres to or exceeds the standards set by both of those corporations; but, since we lack the reach of Big Chocolate, it is not we who are spreading the word about craft chocolate. It’s due to them.
6. Creating Experts
In a very literal sense, Big Chocolate is training specialists in the chocolate industry so that they will remain knowledgeable in their specialty long after they have left the firm. A significant number of these experts eventually find employment in the handmade chocolate industry, either as consultants for farmers or manufacturers, employees in non-profit organizations working in the cocoa sector, or even as chocolatiers themselves. Before beginning to educate themselves independently, chocolate manufacturers working on a smaller scale received instruction from a very distinct community of experts.
As was said at the opening of this piece, not everyone has the financial means to purchase artisan chocolate. This is not in any way to imply that the use of forced labor techniques and pay that are below the poverty line for farmers should continue, but rather to serve as a reminder that high-quality cuisine is not accessible to all people. It simply isn’t. Until we find a way to ensure that all cacao is cultivated in an ethical and environmentally responsible manner, consuming chocolate that is ethically produced won’t ever be the default choice. It is a worthy objective, to be sure, but not one that is particularly attainable. Therefore, what Big Chocolate provides for all of its customers is a taste and group of goods that are consistent with one another, in addition to a constant group of commodity cocoa purchasers. There are cacao farmers who only want to plant a little chocolate to sell seasonally and that is all they want to do, despite the fact that there are many great taste cocoa brands on the market. Big Cocoa is their market, and because of this, they are significant to individuals whose lives extend well beyond the confines of the aisles of your neighborhood grocery store.
If you found this article interesting, please pin it for later!
Can you think of any of the counter-arguments for these points?