views updated Jun 11 2018



NAICS: 31-1320 Chocolate and Confectionery Manufacturing from Cacao Beans, 31-1330 Confectionery Manufacturing from Purchased Chocolate

SIC: 2064 Candy and Other Confectionery Products and Chewing Gum, 2066 Chocolate and Cocoa Products

NAICS-Based Product Codes: 31-132040, 31-132071, 31-13207111, 31-132072, 31-13207221, 31-13207231, 31-13207241, 31-13207251, 31-132073, 31-13207360, 31-13207371, 31-13207381, 31-13297391, 31-13301, 31-133010, 31-13301000, 31-13301001, 31-13301004, 31-13301007, 31-13301015, 31-13301021, 31-13301028, 31-13302, 31-133020, and 31-13302000


Chocolate is by far the favorite flavor of Americans. The National Confectioners Association (NCA) reports that in one survey, 52 percent of Americans named chocolate as their first choice, with the next flavor choices, vanilla and berry, tied at only 12 percent each. As if especially designed to appeal to humans, cocoa butter has a melting point of 90 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit, just below human body temperature, which explains why chocolate melts in the mouth.

Historically, chocolate has been seen as an aphrodisiac, a hangover cure, an antiseptic, and a cure for burns, fevers, listlessness, rheumatism, and snakebites. Modern scientists now tell us that dark chocolate is a heart-healthy food. Chocolate candy's rich emotional appeal gives it a significant role in such major holidays as Valentine's Day, Easter, Halloween, and Christmas.

Chocolate candy is also big business. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 2005 chocolate manufacturing (wholesale) shipments totaled $12.13 billion. The NCA estimated that U.S. retail sales of chocolate candy grew 3.1 percent from 2005 to a 2006 total of $16.3 billion. (This figure has been adjusted to include imported chocolate and exclude candy exported by U.S. manufacturers.)

All chocolate begins with cocoa beans, which grow in pods on the cocoa tree. This tree grows only in tropical regions around the world, with the Ivory Coast in West Africa being the largest producer of cocoa beans. Humans have been enjoying chocolate for at least 2,500 years, with some civilizations elevating it to almost mystical status.

Most archeologists believe that the Olmecs (1500–400 BC), a tribe that populated what is now an area of Mexico and Central America, were the first to consume chocolate. The knowledge passed to the Mayans and Aztecs, who cultivated the beans, which they believed were man's inheritance from the god Quetzalcoatl. The cocoa beans were crushed and made into an unsweetened drink, but they were so important to the Aztec civilization that they were also used as currency.

The Mayans called cocoa the food of the gods, and the Aztecs simply called the beans "chocolatl," warm liquid. Montezuma, the great Aztec monarch, reportedly drank 50 or more servings of chocolate a day from a golden cup.

Christopher Columbus brought the first cocoa beans to Europe in 1502, but they were largely overlooked among the many intriguing objects he brought to the Spanish court. Hernando Cortes, on the other hand, recognized the commercial potential of cocoa beans, experimenting with chocolatl and adding cane sugar to make it more appealing to Spaniards. He established additional cocoa plantings in the Caribbean before returning to Europe. The drink found favor with the Spanish aristocracy, which kept it a secret for almost 100 years. Eventually, the knowledge of the chocolate beverage spread across Europe, with the drink becoming a favorite at the French and British courts. British King William II drank chocolate to help him recover from nights of gambling and drinking, and by the 1590s chocolate was in such favor at Hampton Court that a special kitchen was built just for preparing the beverage. By 1657 London had its first chocolate house. In 1753 Carl von Linnaeus, named the genus and species of the chocolate tree: Theobroma cacao, literally cacao, the food of the gods.

The invention of the steam engine made it possible to mechanize cocoa grinding, and the price dropped enough to make chocolate affordable to the general public. The invention of the cocoa press in 1828 made it possible to squeeze out about half of the cocoa butter, leaving a cake-like residue that could be processed into a fine powder. This lowered the price even further and improved the quality of the drink, giving it a smoother consistency.

In 1847 melted cocoa butter that had been combined with sugar and cocoa powder was first sold as eating chocolate. The candy, which was far smoother than the old grained chocolate, quickly became popular. A further improvement came in 1876, when it was discovered in Switzerland how to add milk to create milk chocolate. In the United States, Milton S. Hershey brought the first Hershey's milk chocolate bar to market in 1900. In 1923 the Mars company introduced its first candy bar, the Milky Way.

It takes about 400 cocoa beans to make one pound of chocolate, according to the NCA. Although there are a number of variations, the process is quite similar at most manufacturers. As the cocoa beans arrive, their variety and region of origin are carefully noted, because the flavor varies and the correct mixture of beans is needed for each product. The beans are cleaned, weighed, blended, and then roasted. After cooling, their thin, brittle shells are removed and blown away, leaving coarse pieces of chocolate known as nibs. Next the nibs are crushed between steel rollers or grinding stones. The nibs are about 53 percent cocoa butter, and the heat of the grinding process turns them to a liquid known as chocolate liquor.

If powdered cocoa is desired, hydraulic presses squeeze out much of the cocoa butter. The pressed cocoa cake is pulverized to make cocoa powder. For eating chocolate, cocoa butter is added to the liquid, enhancing the flavor and making the chocolate more fluid. Other ingredients such as sugar, vanilla, and milk are added, forming a paste. Conching—a form of machine kneading, and emulsifying—is done by beating the chocolate to break up sugar crystals, creating a smoother product. Careful cooling tempers the chocolate, which can then be poured into molds.


The U.S. Census Bureau reports in "Confectionery: 2006," one in its series of Current Industrial Reports that American factories shipped $16.89 billion worth of confectionery products in 2006. This total is broken out into four categories, the largest of which (58.6%) was chocolate confections with 2006 industry shipments valued at $9.89 billion. Non-chocolate confectionery products had shipments of $4.73 billion, gums accounted for $1.77 billion, and an estimated half billion were shipped of unspecified confectionery products from firms too small to be included in the survey. By adding imports and subtracting exports, the Census Bureau estimated that consumption of chocolate candy in the U.S. market totaled $10.2 billion. Exports of all confectionery products totaled $511,286 and imports $781,747 in 2006.

The NCA reported that 2006 retail sales of all confectionery products totaled $28.2 billion, with $15.6 billion in retail sales of chocolate candy, $8.9 billion in non-chocolate candy sales, and $2.7 billion in retail sales of chewing gum.

The performance of premium and dark chocolate was particularly strong, according to Mintel International of Chicago. Mintel reported that sales of premium chocolate in food, drug, and mass merchandising stores (excluding Wal-Mart) increased 129 percent from 2001 to 2006, from $896 million to $2.05 billion. Dark chocolate sales increased 49 percent, from $1.26 billion in 2003 to $1.99 billion in 2006. Datamonitor, a market analysis firm, predicted that overall chocolate sales would grow 22 percent from 2005 to 2010, from $14 billion to $17.8 billion respectively. Dark chocolate sales, however, were predicted to grow 61 percent from $414 million in 2005 to $668 million in 2010.

The NCA reported that for the 52-week sales period ending April 22, 2007, chocolate candy sales had increased 4.4 percent, with chocolate boxes and bags up an impressive 9.3 percent, led by growth in the premium and dark segments. The NCA said 2007 sales through April 22 were supported by strong Valentine's Day and Easter seasons. These holidays, as well as Halloween and Christmas, are important for both the chocolate and non-chocolate candy industries.

The Chocolate Manufacturers Association (CMA) also cites the following figures as an indication of the size of the market it serves: 2005 exports of chocolate products (a broader category than chocolate candy) totaled more than $711 million to more than 160 countries around the world, and about 65,000 jobs in the United States were directly involved in the manufacture of these chocolate products.

The United States is the largest chocolate market in the world, according to statistics from the World Confectionery Report and Export Handbook and the NCA. These figures, only slightly different from the numbers cited above, put the 2005 U.S. retail sales market at $14.2 billion, 22 percent of the world total. The United Kingdom came next with $7.67 billion, or an 11.86 percent share; Germany at $7.23 billion, or 11.18 percent; France at $4.47 billion, or 6.92 percent; and Russia at $3.9 billion, or 6 percent.


The largest chocolate candy maker in 2005 in terms of U.S. supermarket, drugstore, and mass merchandiser sales (excluding Wal-Mart) was Hershey with $1.9 billion in sales and a 43.5 percent market share. Masterfoods (renamed Mars in 2006) was second with $1 billion and a 22.89 percent share, and Nestlé third, with $368 million in sales and an 8.42 percent market share.

On a global scale, Candy Industry magazine published a list of the top 100 candy makers in January 2007, but these statistics are for all candy, not just chocolate. Cadbury Schweppes PLC led the list with $10.5 billion in sales, Nestlé was second with $9.7 billion, and Mars was third with $6.67 billion. Next came the Ferrero Group with $6.7 billion, Hershey Foods Corp. with almost $5 billion, and Wrigley with $4.7 billion.

Hershey Foods Corporation

Hershey's brands include Hershey's, Reese's, Hershey's Kisses, and Ice Breakers. Dark and premium chocolate brands include Hershey's Special Dark, Hershey's Extra Dark, and Cacao Reserve by Hershey's. In addition, Artisan Confections Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hershey, has acquired several premium chocolate makers and now markets Scharffen Berger, Joseph Schmidt, and Dagoba Organic chocolates. Hershey also has license agreements with Cadbury Schweppes affiliated companies to market and distribute York, Almond Joy, and Mounds worldwide as well as Cadbury and Caramello products in the United States. The company has an agreement with Societe des Produits Nestlé S.A. to market Kit Kat and Rolo products in the United States. On a dollar basis, Hershey's sales are about 75 percent chocolate and 25 percent non-chocolate products.

Milton S. Hershey, who owned a caramel manufacturing company, bought chocolate-making equipment at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago and began producing baking chocolate and cocoa as well as coatings for his caramels. Hershey built his own milk-processing plant and worked for three years to become the first American with a formula for manufacturing milk chocolate. The Hershey bar that resulted was an immediate success.

Hershey, located in Hershey, Pennsylvania, is the largest North American candy maker, and it employed more than 13,000 people worldwide in the middle of the first decade of the 2000s. After improving sales helped push up stock prices from 2001 to 2005, momentum slowed. The company's net sales fell 0.7 percent to $1.37 billion in the fourth quarter of 2006 from the year-earlier quarter, while net income dipped 10 percent to $153.6 million or 65 cents per share. Hershey responded in early 2007, announcing major restructuring that included cutting 1,500 jobs, eliminating one-third of its production lines, outsourcing cheaper items, and building a plant in Mexico.

In April 2007 Hershey announced a new strategic supply and innovation partnership with Barry Callebaut, the world's largest manufacturer of high-quality cocoa and industrial chocolate. The companies agreed to partner on a wide range of research and development activities. Callebaut also agreed to build and operate a facility to provide chocolate for Hershey's new plant in Mexico and to lease part of Hershey's Robinson, Illinois, plant and operate chocolate-making equipment there.

Mars, Inc.

This company is an $18 billion, privately owned business operating in more than 65 countries. Its headquarters are in McLean, Virginia. Mars markets pet food, beverages, dinner products such as Uncle Ben's rice, and information services as well as candy. Its chocolate brands include M&M's, Mars, Milky Way, Snickers, and Twix.

Mars was founded in 1911 when Frank C. Mars opened a candy factory in Tacoma, Washington. He relocated to Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1920 and introduced the Snickers and Milky Way bars. Mars and Hershey have fought each other over the years for leadership in the U.S. candy market. Mars acquired Dove International in 1986, and began marketing not only Dove candy and ice cream bars, but ice cream versions of 3 Musketeers, Milky Way, and Snickers as well.

In the candy market, however, Hershey regained first place in 1988 by acquiring the right to produce and market Mounds and Almond Joy bars. Mars responded in 1990 with the successful introduction of peanut butter M&M's, which cut into the market for Hershey's Reese's peanut butter cups.

Nestlé S.A.

Nestlé, a Swiss company, is the largest food and beverage company in the world in terms of sales. It was founded by Henri Nestlé to market baby formula for infants who could not breastfeed. Today, Nestlé's 7,500 brands include coffee, bottled water, breakfast cereal, dairy products, ice cream, baby formula, and pet food as well as chocolate.

In 1875 Daniel Peter of Switzerland discovered how to combine Nestlé's condensed milk and cocoa to make milk chocolate. Peter, a neighbor of Henri Nestlé, founded a company that quickly became the world's leading maker of chocolate. As Nestlé's company grew, it also began making and selling chocolate, and in 1928 the company merged with Peter, Cailler, Kohler, and Chocolats Swiss, a company resulting from the merger of several Swiss chocolate makers including the firm founded by Peter. This merger added 13 chocolate plants in Europe, South America, and Australia.

In the United States, a subsidiary, Nestlé's Food Company Inc., was formed. The company's candy brands, including Nestlé's Crunch, Baby Ruth, and Butterfingers, are now produced by the snack division of Nestlé USA.

Cadbury Schweppes

Global leader Cadbury Schweppes resulted from a merger of the Cadbury candy company in Birmingham, England, and Schweppes beverage company in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1969. In early 2007 the company separated its beverage and confectionery units, dividing confectionery into four regional divisions: the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe and a single unit focusing on Britain, Ireland, the Middle-East, and Africa.

Russell Stover

Another name worth noting in the list of chocolate makers is Russell Stover. In the United States, Russell Stover, which also owns the Whitman brand, dominates candy box sales. Russell Stover's 2006 sales totaled $93 million, with Whitman sales at $41 million.


Materials used by chocolate candy manufacturers include cocoa beans and products made from the beans such as chocolate liquor, chocolate cake and powder, chocolate coatings, and cocoa butter; sweeteners, including high-fructose corn syrup and cane and beet sugar; milk and milk products; nutmeats; fresh and dried fruits; and coconuts.

Hershey states on its Web site that cocoa is its most significant raw material, with other principal materials being, in order of magnitude, sugar, milk, peanuts, almonds and coconut. Chocolate makers globally use around two-fifths of the world's almonds and one-fifth of the world's peanuts. In the United States, chocolate manufacturers use about 3.5 million pounds of whole milk every day.

The supply chain for cocoa beans begins with small farmers in the Ivory Coast, Ghana, and other cocoa exporting countries. The farmer dries the beans, packs them, and delivers them to an exporting company, who inspects the cocoa and trucks it to a warehouse near a port. At the port, an independent grading agency inspects the beans before they are loaded onto ships. When the ship reaches its destination, it is unloaded and taken to a pier warehouse where it is sampled and inspected by the importer and declared to customs. Trucks then carry the cocoa to the manufacturer's facility.

The need for cocoa beans has drawn the industry into the contentious question of living and working conditions in the areas of West Africa where 70 percent of the beans are grown. In response to reports that child slaves were working on cocoa farms while living under inhumane conditions, particularly in the Ivory Coast, the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) was formed in 2000. The goal is to promote "a sustainable cocoa economy through economic and social development and environmental conservation…." Its 60 candy company members include all of the major producers.

Working through this organization in the early 2000s, the cocoa industry, the United Nations, associations such as NCA and CMA, and local governments are together sponsoring programs to: (1) eliminate forced labor, (2) see that children are not harmed while working on family farms, (3) help small farmers get a better economic return on their produce, and (4) protect and enhance the environment in cocoa-growing regions. In one program, the NCA announced a partnership with UNICEF to provide greater access to education for children in the cocoa communities. Mars was participating in an initiative to provide vocational education in the Ivory Coast. Hershey was supporting another to provide teacher training in the cocoa-growing regions of Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

The WCF's Initiative for African Cocoa Communities (IACC) was formed in 2002 to bring together industry, farmer groups, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), development groups and others in an even stronger commitment of improving the lives of cocoa farmers and their families. Small cocoa farmers lose an average 30 percent of their crops to pests and disease, and at times they are faced with total crop failures. The IACC supports programs to educate farmers on more productive farming methods, as well as on better labor and environmental practices. The organization also deals with community issues such as HIV/AIDS and access to education. In another initiative, the United States adopted legislation setting up a protocol agreement that established a cocoa certification process that includes reports on the worst forms of child labor and forced labor and progress in reducing its incidence.

Ghana issued its first certification report in early 2007 as part of its own National Cocoa Child Labor Elimination Program. It stated that most children working in the country's cocoa industry are working on family farms and living with parents or a close relative. It added, however, that many children are still involved in hazardous tasks not appropriate for helping out on a family farm.

The large amount of sugar used by candy makers has involved the industry in trade policy. The NCA has for years argued that sugar price supports and trade restrictions put U.S. candy makers at a competitive disadvantage against manufacturers in other countries who can buy cheaper sugar on the global market. NCA says this is causing the loss of American manufacturing jobs, and it has lobbied in support of trade agreements such as the U.S. Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that allow U.S. manufacturers to purchase some sugar from Central American growers at world market prices.

In 2006 the industry became involved in an effort by the Grocery Manufacturers Association to convince the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to revise food regulations to allow more flexibility. Of particular concern was a change that would allow manufacturers to substitute vegetable fat for cocoa butter and lower-cost milk substitutes for genuine milk products. Some chocolate companies such as Guittard Chocolate and See's Candies indignantly opposed the changes, while others, including Hershey saw no problem with them. It was predicted that it would be years before the FDA finally settled the issue.

Meanwhile a compromise within the European Union allows chocolate sold there to contain 5 percent non-cocoa vegetable fat so long as these nut butters come from an approved list of other tropical nuts. The presence of fats other than cocoa butter can be listed near the end of the list of ingredients rather than on the front of packages, as once had been suggested.

Another regulatory concern for chocolate makers arises when alcohol is used in candy fillings. In the United States, the use of alcohol in the fillings of some chocolate candies has subjected candy makers to different regulations in every state. Alabama, for example, prohibits the sale of candy containing "any vinous, malt, or spirituous liquor," while California permits the retail sale of any confectionery that contains less than 5 percent alcohol by weight.


Chocolate candy is sold through a varied and diverse network of distributors and retailers. The Hershey Company, for example, stated on its Web site that the company sells to grocery wholesalers, chain grocery stores, candy distributors, mass merchandisers, chain drug stores, companies that manage vending machines, wholesale clubs, convenience stores, concessionaires, and food distributors, for a total of more than 2 million retail outlets in North America. The product travels from manufacturing centers to a network of distribution centers and field warehouses located throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The company generally uses contract carriers to deliver product from these warehouses to customers. Hershey's uses a real-time computing service, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to allow business customers to place and track orders.

Confectioner magazine reported in April 2005 on distribution channels for all candy. Although these figures included sales of non-chocolate candy, they provide a good indication of where chocolate candy is being sold. According to this report, 28.6 percent of candy was being sold in supermarkets, with 16.8 percent going directly from manufacturers to supermarkets' own warehouses or stores, 8.7 percent going indirectly to supermarkets by way of wholesale grocers and co-ops, and 3.1 percent going indirectly by way of candy and tobacco or specialty food distributors. The magazine said 7.8 percent of candy was going to wholesale clubs, although these clubs were only selling 3.9 percent of candy directly to consumers. The rest was being sold to small retail outlets or distributors and resold.

Confectioner listed a wide variety of independent retailers and alternate outlets, while noting that none was large enough to warrant individual designation on the chart. These outlets included beauty parlors, card and gift shops, video stores, college book shops, craft and hobby stores, hardware and home improvement outlets, liquor stores, toy shops, specialty stores, candy shops, and office supply and service outlets, as well as small independent outlets. Another group of sellers that did not warrant individual designations included manufacturing retailers (candy sold through company-owned stores), fund-raising operations, and government and military stores.

Basing its figures on input from Chicago-based Information Resources, Inc. (IRI), NCA's and CMA's monthly shipping reports, and the U.S. Department of Commerce, the NCA listed the following sales totals for various outlets from January through December, 2006: supermarkets, $4.3 billion; Wal-Mart, $3.2 billion; mass market stores other than Wal-Mart, $1.3 billion; convenience stores, $4.2 billion; drug stores, $2.4 billion; warehouse club stores, $2.1 billion; dollar stores $0.8 billion; vending machines, $1.2 billion; and bulk sales, $1.5 billion. A factor that must be considered in all warehousing and ship-ping of chocolate candy is its vulnerability to light, heat, humidity, and odor contamination.

One distribution issue that has been of concern to the industry is an October 2005 decision by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association, the group that maintains a freight classification system for the trucking industry, to change the classification for chocolate and other candy. The price of sending less-than-truckload shipments is negotiated based on this classification, which takes into consideration such transportability characteristics as density, stowability, ease of handling, and liability.

This group surveyed truckers and concluded that average density of candy shipments was less than was required for its classification of "65," which meant that a given number of pounds of candy was taking up more room in a truck. In 2005 the industry reclassified candy as "92.5," which resulted in higher shipping rates for the entire industry. The NCA appealed, and while it did not get candy back to its old classification, it obtained an agreement with the trucking industry on a sliding classification based on actual density. This meant that shippers of dense packages were charged less.


Almost everyone eats chocolate candy. One small exception may be very young children. The CMA states on its Web site that older children are significantly more likely to prefer chocolate than younger children. With a large variety of reputedly healthier dark chocolates, sugar-free chocolates, and diet chocolate, even diabetics and those concerned about health or weight can and do eat chocolate candy.


Compared to other food products, candy and gum occupy a growing portion of the marketplace. IRI data for the year ending December 2006 show that in food, drug, and mass merchandising channels, candy and gum ranked third in volume of all food categories, behind carbonated beverages and milk. The confectionery category was growing, however, while carbonated beverage and milk sales were flat or declining. A more direct sales competitor, salty snacks came in fourth, and that category was also growing even faster than candy.

It can be argued that candy sales are increasing even more rapidly than shown in this survey, because dollar stores, which are increasingly stocking candy, and Wal-Mart are not included.

NCA figures also show that while candy and gum sales grew in 2006 in supermarkets, drugstores, and mass merchandisers (excluding Wal-Mart), snack food categories grew faster. Miscellaneous snacks grew 28 percent to $220 million; snack and granola bars, 4.3 percent to $1.9 billion; coffee, 3 percent to $3 billion; bakery snacks, $3.5 percent to $860 million; salty snacks, 2.6 percent to $7.46 billion; and candy, 1.6 percent to $8 billion. Ice cream decreased 0.3 percent to $4.4 billion, and cookies, decreased 0.6 percent to $3.9 billion.

Within the U.S. candy category, IRI offered a breakdown of sales in 2006. U.S. chocolate candy sales totaled $4.58 million, non-chocolate candy totaled $2.3 billion, and gum, $1.1 billion.

Another way of looking at adjacent markets is to consider non-edible cocoa bean products such as cocoa butter and cocoa shell mulch. Cocoa butter is used in various skin-care products, while cocoa shell mulch is prized for its landscaping qualities, flexible use, and sweet aroma. Compared to candy, these cocoa bean-based products represent a very small market, and sales figures are not readily available.


Those involved in the chocolate industry sponsor and conduct research in several areas. Pennsylvania Manufacturing Confectioners Association (PMCA), an international association of candy manufacturers, for example, awards one or two annual grants for graduate-level, non-proprietary university research in areas relevant to candy, manufacturers' problems, or industry issues, as well as one annual grant for research at Pennsylvania State University (Penn State).

Penn State has a long history of confectionery research, beginning in the 1920s. In addition to PMCA, support for Penn State candy research has come from a number of companies and organizations, including M&M/Mars, Hershey, CMA, the American Cocoa Research Institute, the American Association of Candy Technologists, and Dairy Management Inc. (on the use of fractionated milk fat in milk chocolate).

Research topics have varied widely, including work on the flavor and sensory quality of chocolate, the impact of cocoa butter in the diet, flavor-fade in peanuts, the continuous conching of chocolate, the influence of particle size and size distribution on the flow and sensory properties of chocolate, and the genetic transformation of the cocoa tree for improved disease resistance and seed quality.

Individual companies also conduct research, largely to develop and introduce new products. Candy Industry magazine reported on its Web site on a survey of 500 food and beverage processors by New Products Magazine. The magazine noted that while snack and candy makers as a whole devote 3 percent of their workforce to new product development, chocolate R&D accounts for less than 1 percent of the industry workforce.

CMA's Web site lists a number of 2006 and 2007 research publications on the health effects of chocolate. Flavanols are a class of chemicals found in raw cocoa beans, red wine, and green tea. Mars, Hershey, and Barry Callebaut are among the companies that have developed processes to retain most of the flavanols during processing, and they are marketing healthy chocolate with more flavanols.

Flavanols have been shown in some studies to relax blood vessels and increase blood flow, possibly lowering blood pressure and guarding against heart attacks. Other researchers have said flavanols may potentially balance the immune system, restrain brain aging, and even curb cancer cell production. Most health professionals warn, however, that chocolate is very high in calories and that unless portions are limited, it will contribute to obesity and associated heart risks.


Premium chocolates and the overlapping category of dark chocolates were continuing to grow in popularity throughout the first decade of the 2000s. Mintel International reported that after 2002, when the premium chocolate category began to gain traction, it grew at a rate of about 14 percent a year, with consumers interested in dark chocolate both for rewarding themselves and because of the positive health news about dark chocolate. The importance of health as a motivation is illustrated by strong sales of non-premium dark chocolate such as Hershey's Special Dark bar.

Dark and premium chocolate cannot be completely combined into one category, however, because Mintel's survey showed that 43 percent of premium customers prefer dark chocolate while 42 percent favor milk chocolate. The health trend can also be seen in the strong growth of dietetic chocolate. Sales of low-sugar and no-sugar-added chocolate in U.S. food, drug, and mass merchandising stores (excluding Wal-Mart), according to ACNielsen, grew 478.2 percent between 2000 and 2005. Portion-control chocolate packaging was also gaining popularity as consumers looked for ways to control their weight. White chocolate was winning fans as well because it could boast that it contained no caffeine.

Premium no-sugar-added varieties appeal to diabetics as well as dieters. Guylian Chocolate of Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, for example, established a premium no-sugar-added line, which uses Belgian chocolate and an extended conching process to give the bars a smooth texture and rich flavor. The bars are made with maltitol, a natural sugar substitute. Despite these trends, a great many chocolate buyers are not worrying about their weight. In fact, the sale of chocolate in bars, boxes or packages greater than 3.5 ounces has been increasing steadily.

The market for organic chocolate products was also expanding rapidly in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Dagoba Organic, sold by the Artisan Confections Company, a subsidiary of Hershey, and Theo Chocolate of Seattle, Washington, are two organic manufacturers who are gaining market share. Dagoba's new Apothecary line features a Cacao Elixir that is glycerin-based, sugar-free, and alcohol-free, and it offers botanical infusions made with cacao nibs. Theo Chocolate roasts its own Fair Trade-certified cocoa beans, noting that consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the child labor issues surrounding some cocoa beans.

As part of the gourmet chocolate trend, some observers predict that the most discerning consumers will search for cocoa from different continents, countries, or regions. More interest in ethnic chocolate is also expected, with dark chocolate being marketed with flavorings such as black or cayenne pepper, ancho chilies, lemon and lime, intense cinnamon, ginger, paprika, pine nuts, cloves, sea salt, rosemary, and even sun-dried tomatoes.


Chocolate candy makers are not forgetting their core customers—women ages 25 to 40, who according to Mintel International, eat an average eight servings per month. New dark chocolate products aimed at this group are proliferating. Candy producers, however, are also looking for ways to appeal to other groups. Many of the new health-oriented varieties are particularly aimed at the aging Baby Boom generation (born between 1945 and the early 1960s).

Some new boxed candy collections are designed to attract younger, hipper buyers who have the money to treat themselves to an upscale assortment. One version is Target's new Choxie brand. Fanny May's new gourmet line, marketed under the Harry London brand, was presented in a sophisticated black-hinged box and featured richer, subtler flavors. In fact, new packaging is a popular way to reach targeted groups. Labels highlight the product's purported health benefits or other attributes. As seen above, portion control packaging, with individual packets containing 90 or 100 calories, has also been popular with consumers.

Retailers try to draw attention to new or gourmet products with various displays, including off-shelf displays in flower and greeting card sections. Store-within-a-store boutiques, positioned near such departments as the bakery and artisan breads section, can call attention to premium products. Giant Eagle stores in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, have even begun cross-merchandising dark chocolate in the wine department, touting red wine and chocolate as an appealing combination.

One group the candy industry wants to be careful about targeting is children. The NCA has announced guidelines on responsible confectionery marketing for its members. The organization has also joined the Children's Advertising Review Unit that seeks to ensure that advertising to young children is "truthful, accurate, and sensitive." In addition, the NCA joined the Ad Council's Coalition for Healthy Children to promote healthy lifestyles to children and parents, and has made materials available on nutrition and physical activity.


American Association of Candy Technologists (AACT),

Chocolate Manufacturers Association,

National Confectioners Association,

Pennsylvania Manufacturing Confectioners Association, PMCA: An International Association of Confectioners,

Retail Confectioners International,

World Cocoa Foundation,


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"Hershey and Barry Callebaut Announce Strategic Supply and Innovation Partnership." Hershey Company. 26 April 2007. Available from 〈〉.

"Industry Performance: Dept. of Commerce Annual Confectionery Report." National Confectioners Association. Available from 〈〉.

"Investor Relations: FAQs." Hershey Company. Available from 〈〉.

Kennedy, Maev. "Palace Serves Up History of Chocolate." The Guardian, (London, England). 14 April 2001, p 5.

Kolenc, Julie. "Chocolate Bar Sales Soar: Chocolate Bars Are Grabbing the Headlines as Consumers Discover New Varieties and React to Health Claims." Professional Candy Buyer. March-April 2007, 26.

Lazich, Robert S. Market Share Reporter 2007. Thomson Gale, 2006, Volume 1, 139-143.

Liebeck, Laura. "Sweet Ride: Candy's Gotten a Shot in the Arm from Popular Chocolate Segments Such as Dark, White, and Dietetic." Progressive Grocer. 1 March 2006, 58.

Marter, Marilynn. "A Turn for the Bitter in Chocolate Market: Sales of Dark Varieties Are Rising, Driven in Part by a Notion of Healthfulness." The Philadelphia Inquirer, (Philadelphia, PA). 26 October 2006.

Pacyniak, Bernie. "Don't Mess with the 'Gold Standard.'" Candy Industry. April 2007, 6.

Penn, Catherine. "Fast and Furious" Candy Industry. May 2007. Available from 〈〉.

Rehan, Kelly. "Delving Deeper into Dark: From Low-Sugar to Fair Trade, Organic to Dark, Chocolate Bar Manufacturers Expect to Turn Many of Last Year's Biggest Trends into Successful Mainstays in 2007." Candy Industry. January 2007, 40.

℅℅℅℅℅℅. "From Farm to Pharma: Chocolate's String of Health Claims Ranges from Lowering Blood Pressure to Even Preventing Some Cancers." Candy Industry. April 2007, 12.

Roberts, Williams A. Jr. "Confounding Confections: With Gum and Mints Accounting for $3.3 Billion in Sales, Premium Chocolate Selling $1.5 Billion Worth Per Year and Sugar Confectionery Tallying $11.3 Billion Annually, There Is No Doubting the Vast Size of the Overall Confectionery Category." Prepared Foods. July 2005, 18.

see also Candy, Snack Foods


views updated Jun 08 2018


CHOCOLATE. Chocolate is the name applied to the variety of products manufactured from the seeds of the tropical tree Theobroma cacao L. The Swedish naturalist Carl Von Linné (17071778), known as Linnaeus, gave the tree the attribution theobroma or "food of the gods," taken from the Greek. When adjoined to cacao, the indigenous Mixe-Zoquean term for the plant, the name is symbolic of the social, religious, and economic importance of chocolate in both New and Old World cultures. Yet while it was revered, it was also reviled, an ambivalence that attends chocolate even in the twenty-first century. Among all the fruits of tropical and subtropical America, why would this one elicit so much passion?

The Plant and Its History

The geographic origin of T. cacao is obscure. While most texts place its origin in either the Amazon or Orinoco River basins of northern South America, it is equally likely that a separate variety originated in Mesoamerica, perhaps in the Lacandón rainforest of the Mexican state of Chiapas. It has been hypothesized that wild T. cacao was broadly distributed in Central and South America and that at some time trees in the isthmus died out, leaving a northern variety and a southern variety to develop independently. The fruit of criollo, the northern variety, is characterized by elongated, deeply ridged yellow to red pods containing ivory or pale purple seeds, while forastero, the southern variety, is characterized by more ovoid, smooth, melon-like green or yellow pods with pale to deep purple seeds. The pigmented substances and related compounds in the cacao seeds impart bitter and astringent qualities to the chocolate. Hence the forastero variety has a robust flavor, while the delicate, "fine" flavor of the criollo is generally considered of superior quality. In the early twenty-first century, greater than 80 percent of commercial cacao was forastero, since this variety is hardier and more productive.

The word "cacao" seems to have come to the Maya from the Olmec, who inhabited the lowlands of the coast of the Gulf of Mexico between about 1500 and 400 b.c.e. and who probably first domesticated the tree. The Izapan culture that bridged the Olmec and the Classic Maya (250900 C.E.) likely planted the criollo plantations of Xoconochco (Soconusco) on the Pacific coastal plains of Chiapas, later a prize possession of the Aztec (Mexica) Empire. While this suggests that cacao was an important crop to the Olmec and the Izapan, it is not known to what extent chocolate was an icon food. The pre-Classic Quiché Maya of the Guatemala highlands apparently did not hold it in exceeding high regard for it is mentioned only in passing in the sacred Popol Vuh or "Book of Counsel." But sometime before 250 C.E. this changed. Chocolate appears in Classic Maya iconography, where the glyph symbolizing cacao adorns ritual burial vases. Classic Maya, particularly the wealthy, imbibed cacao in betrothal and marriage ceremonies, reminiscent of the modern use of expensive French champagne. However, the ritual use of cacao reached its height during the time of the Aztec (Mexica) Empire between 1300 and 1521 C.E.

Cacao was both an elite drink and coinage among the post-Classic Maya and the Aztecs. Chocolate was considered a drink for warriors and nobles and had ritual significance as a symbol of human blood. Since cacao could not be grown in the Valley of Mexico, the site of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán, it had to be imported from either the conquered lands in Xoconochco or obtained by trade from the Maya of the Yucatán, which gave chocolate an exotic quality. It has been oft repeated that Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin (the familiar "Montezuma") drank fifty flagons of chocolate a day, most especially before entering his harem, but the account of the conquistador Bernal Díaz del Castillo says of those fifty large mugs, "he would drink a little" (Dillinger et al., 2000, p. 2058S). While cacao was an integral part of the beliefs and practices of the ruling Aztec elite, the image they held of it was not wholly positive. This warning is part of one Aztec tale: "You have become old, you have become tired because of the chocolate you drink and because of the foods you eat" (Coe and Coe, 1996, p. 80). The exuberance of the puritanical Aztecs for chocolate may have been tempered by its association with the luxury-loving Maya of the warm lands to the south. This north-south conflict was repeated in Europe.

In American English usage, "cacao" refers to the tree and its dried seeds prior to further processing; "cocoa" refers to the partially defatted, roasted, and ground cacao seeds; and "chocolate" refers to a food prepared from roasted cacao seeds. Although not leguminous, the cacao seeds are often referred to as "beans." The composition of the edible cotyledon or "nib" is by weight approximately 55 percent fat; 30 percent carbohydrates, half of which is dietary fiber; 10 percent protein; and a host of minor nutrients. This breakdown provides a key to the basis for chocolate's status as a luxury food.

Cacao seeds, numbering twenty to forty, develop within a thick-hulled pod surrounded by a white, sweet, mucilaginous pulp that, with the potential to be fermented into ethanol, could have been what first attracted Homo sapiens. Wild cacao is dispersed by primates, who consume the sweet pulp and discard the bitter seed. Cupuaçu, a product made from the pulp of the fruit of Theobroma grandiflorum, a relative of T. cacao, is consumed by peoples of the Amazon. The preparation of cacao seeds for chocolate making begins with a fermentation step that at one point generates ethanol, which may explain why chocolate has at times been described as intoxicating. A "wine" produced from the liquid expressed from the cacao pulp is consumed in the Yucatán. It is speculative but possible that consumption of the cacao seeds was an afterthought, as the bitter flavor of the seeds is an acquired taste.

Processing Cacao

Fermentation is required for the characteristic chocolate flavor to develop when the seeds are roasted. The mucilaginous pulp surrounding the seeds is fermented to ethanol, then progressively to acetic and lactic acids, which facilitates its removal. The acid and heat generated during fermentation kill the seed embryo, preventing germination and allowing enzymatic changes that generate flavor precursors and reduce bitterness and astringency. Following fermentation, the seeds are dried, preferably in the sun, to a final moisture content of about 7.5 percent. In this form, the seeds are transported from the country of origin to the major chocolate manufacturing regions.

For the Maya and the modern American alike, the conversion of the fermented and dried cacao to chocolate involves three major operations: roasting, winnowing, and grinding. Just as with meat, roasting cacao generates complex aromas appealing to the human sense of smell. Winnowing is the removal of the inedible shell surrounding the nib. Grinding, which the Maya accomplished by hand using a metate and for which later processors have used a variety of mechanical mills, liberates the cacao fat (cacao "butter") from within the plant cells, extracts the aroma, and permits easy suspension of the cacao in beverages.

The quantity of protein in cacao is significant, and the amino acid composition, while limited in lysine and methionine, can be considered good for a protein of plant origin. However, unlike the leguminous beans that complement maize nutritionally, the digestibility of cocoa proteins is only about 16 to 17 percent. Therefore the proteins of cacao have little practical nutritional value.

The nitrogenous compounds of cacao include both proteins (80 percent) and the methylxanthines theobromine and caffeine, which are present in chocolate liquor (ground cacao nibs) at levels of about 1.22 percent and 0.21 percent respectively. They are both central nervous system stimulants, diuretics, and smooth muscle relaxants, although theobromine tends to be less so than caffeine. It is certainly reasonable to assume that the physiological effects of the plant alkaloids are part of chocolate's appeal. Chocolate introduced Europe to these stimulants, though in a milder form than the coffee and tea that followed. The caffeine-containing kola nut, derived from an African tree of the same order as cacao (Sterculiaceae), became the basis of the American icon food Coca Cola. But it is likely that cacao butter is the soul of chocolate's appeal.

While wild game, including deer, peccaries, monkeys, tapir, birds, reptiles, and smaller mammals, were abundant in the New World, the only domesticated animals routinely used for meat were the dog and the ocellated turkey (Meleagris ocellata). Muscle foods were not ordinary fare for the indigenous inhabitants of Mesoamerica, and "when the meat-eating Europeans arrived, they described Maya life as perpetual Lent" (Coe, 1994, p. 153). Perhaps just as significant, this lack of large domesticated livestock meant the Maya had no source of butter, lard, or tallow. Fats and oils have been sought for cooking, lighting, and medicine since the earliest times. Hence some of the earliest domesticated plant species in the Old World were the almond (Prunus amygdalus) and the olive (Oleo europea). Perhaps the well-documented Maya distaste for the fat of European animals resulted from Maya familiarity with the preeminent fat, cacao butter.

Nutritional Value

Cacao butter is unique among natural fats. Its constituent fatty acids are principally the medium-chain saturated fatty palmitic acid and stearic acid and the monounsaturated oleic acid, so cacao butter exhibits a remarkable stability against oxidative rancidity. Furthermore, the manner in which these fatty acids are distributed on the major molecule of natural fats, triacylglycerols, makes cacao butter solid at normal ambient temperatures, but it melts quickly just below body temperature. Bishop Diego de Landa reportedly said the Maya "get from cacao a grease which resembles butter, and from this and maize they make another beverage which is very savory and highly thought of" (Coe and Coe, 1996, p. 61). Fernández de Oviedo observed, "Cacao ground, and cooked with a bit of water, makes an excellent fat for cooking" (Coe, 1994, p. 54).

As in other fats, the caloric content of cocoa butter is high. Chocolate liquor contains approximately 520 kilocalories per 100 grams, 460 of which are from fat. The 1878 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica refers to "Cocoa, or more properly Cacao," as "a valuable dietary substance" and points out that, while only infusions are made from coffee and tea, leaving large portions of their total weights unconsumed, the entire substance of the cacao seed is utilized. Henry Stubbe, in The Indian Nectar, or, a Discourse Concerning Chocolata [sic ] (1662), reported that both English soldiers and Indian women in Jamaica sustained themselves for long periods by eating only chocolate yet did not exhibit a decline in strength. The nutritional qualities of chocolate have been praised by numerous authors since the sixteenth century, and some people have called it a complete food, like bread or milk, containing as much nourishment as a pound of beef. While this helped the Hershey Chocolate Company earn the Army-Navy E award for the Ration D, it caused much consternation within the Catholic Church. Twice the residents of Chiapas consulted Pope Gregory XIII on the question of whether or not drinking chocolate broke the ecclesiastical fast, and both times he responded that it did not because it was a drink. So while coffee and tea can only be regarded as stimulant in effect, a cup of cacao is nutritive in value.

In preconquest Mesoamerica, cacao was an ingredient of a wide variety of drinks, gruels, and porridges, to which were added a great diversity of other flavorings, notably vanilla (Vanilla planifolia), chilli pepper (Capsicum annum), and "ear flower" (Cymbopetalum penduliflorum). It is likely that some of these concoctions were served hot and others cold. The simplest chocolate drink consisted of adding ground cacao and flavorings to water and agitating the mixture by beating or by pouring the liquid from one vessel to another to raise a foam, which was considered the best part of the drink and a sign of quality. During preparation the foam was reserved, then it was added back before serving. While the Maya added indigenous plants to augment the foam, modern consumers have replaced it altogether with whipped cream or marshmallow. The ground cacao was often ameliorated with ground maize or ceiba seed (Ceiba pentandra), though not in the most elite drinks. The bitter taste of most chocolate drinks was not immediately appealing to the European palate. Notable among the ingredients Europeans added to their chocolate are sugar and milk.

From at least the time of the Aztecs, people have been ambivalent about chocolate. Wolfgang Schivelbusch portrayed this ambivalence as a contest between diametrically opposed cultures: capitalist, middle-class, Protestant northern Europe versus aristocratic, Catholic southern Europe. Chocolate was a status symbol of the ancien régime, while coffee appealed to the bourgeois intellect. That chocolate became a status symbol in Europe had much to do with its richness, rarity, and exotic origins. As a status symbol, drinking chocolate vanished with the ancien régime. Cocoa became a breakfast drink for women and children; what formerly symbolized power and glory was now in the hands of the disenfranchised in middle-class society. However, at the same time, solid eating chocolate gained new significance as a luxury in its own right. Once again prestige followed the fat.

While the calories provided by chocolate may have been advantageous to a solider on the march, the idle European nobility found it exceedingly fattening and disagreeable at times to the stomach. In search of a better beverage, Coenraad Van Houten in 1828 developed a means of partially defatting cacao using a mechanical press, an invention that had unanticipated consequences.

The development of solid eating chocolate was evolutionary. Chocolate liquor is solid below 85°F (30°C); formed into small pellets or wafers, it was issued to Aztec warriors on campaign. It was an obvious step to add spices and maize to the cacao during grinding and then form the mixture into cakes. These tablets could later be dispersed into water to prepare a beverage. Seventeenth-century texts mention "eating" as well as drinking chocolate, and recipes for solid confections containing cacao appeared in the eighteenth century. In the 1820s, Goethe wrote of chocolate, "Enjoy this whenever it suits your mood, Not as a drink, but a much loved food" (Morton and Morton, 1986, p. 67). But it was the surplus cacao butter resulting from Van Houten's invention that accelerated the trend toward solid chocolate confections.

The addition of cacao butter to chocolate liquor made it possible to add more sugar to balance the bitterness of the cacao while still producing a thin paste that could be cast into a mold or used as a coating. Solid eating chocolate became an object of trade in the mid-1800s. However, these early products were coarse and gritty. Rudolph Lindt is credited with the 1879 invention of the conch that by grinding the sugar exceedingly fine and homogenizing the mixture creates a smooth and creamy textured chocolate with enhanced flavor and aroma. This "fondant" chocolate became a world standard.

Chocolate has been lauded for its purported medicinal value. Greater than one hundred medicinal uses for chocolate have been reported, and the majority fall into three main categories: 1) to aid emaciated patients in gaining weight; 2) to stimulate the nervous systems of apathetic, exhausted, or feeble individuals; and 3) to improve digestion, stimulate the kidneys (diuretic), and improve bowel function (Dillinger et al., 2000, p. 2057S). These uses can be explained either by cacao's caloric content or by the presence of methylxanthines. In the late twentieth century, attention focused on a class of compounds, phytonutrients, that tend to have antioxidant properties and are said to lower the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Among these phytonutrients are the polyphenols, in particular the catechins, which have demonstrated physiological antioxident properties. Pigment cells in the cacao seed, especially in the forastero variety, are rich in these compounds, which may mean redemption for the lowly cousin of the criollo.

Chocolate has long been called an aphrodisiac, a quality that entered into the debate over whether or not it could be consumed by Catholics during Lent, and references to its stimulation of the sexual appetite are numerous. Like other luxury items, chocolate is a symbol of excess wealth, but the association of chocolate and eroticism may not be entirely iconographic in nature. While no specific chemical compounds have yet been identified that could account for either chocolate's supposed addictive or aphrodisiac properties, debate continues on its physiological and psychological effects. Chocolate has become an essential ingredient in the act of seduction. It could be that the melting of the cacao butter in chocolate is symbolic of the melting of the heart and the breakdown of sexual resistance.


Bailleux, Nathalie, et al. The Book of Chocolate. Paris: Flammarion, 1995.

Beckett, S. T., ed. Industrial Chocolate Manufacture and Use. 3rd edition. Oxford: Blackwell Science, 1999.

Coe, Sophie D. America's First Cuisines. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994.

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

Dand, Robin. The International Cocoa Trade. 2nd edition. Cambridge, U.K.: Woodhead Publishing, 1999.

Dillinger, Teresa L., Patricia Barriga, Sylvia Escárcega, Martha Jimenez, Diana Salazar Lowe, and Louis E. Grivetti. "Food of the Gods: Cure for Humanity? A Cultural History of the Medicinal and Ritual Use of Chocolate." Journal of Nutrition 130 (2000): 2057S2072S.

Drewnowski, Adam, and Carmen Gomez-Carneros. "Bitter Taste, Phytonutrients, and the Consumer: A Review." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 72 (2000): 14241435.

Girard, Sylvie. "Les vertus aphrodisiaques du chocolat [The aphrodisiac qualities of chocolate]." Cahiers Sexol. Clin. 11 (1985): 6062.

Knight, Ian, ed. Chocolate and Cocoa, Health and Nutrition. Oxford: Blackwell Science, 1999.

Morton, Marcia, and Frederic Morton. Chocolate: An Illustrated History. New York: Crown Publishers, 1986.

Schivelbusch, Wolfgang. Tastes of Paradise: A Social History of Spices, Stimulants, and Intoxicants. Translated from the German by David Jacobson. New York: Pantheon Books, 1992.

Gregory R. Ziegler


views updated May 08 2018



Chocolate, in all of its varied forms (candy bars, cocoa, cakes, cookies, coating for other candies and fruits) is probably America's favorite confection. With an annual per capita consumption of around 14 pounds (6 kilograms) per person, chocolate is as ubiquitous as a non-essential food can be.

Cocoa trees originated in South America's river valleys, and, by the seventh century A.D., the Mayan Indians had brought them north into Mexico. In addition to the Mayans, many other Central American Indians, including the Aztecs and the Toltecs, seem to have cultivated cocoa trees, and the words "chocolate" and "cocoa" both derive from the Aztec language. When Cortez, Pizarro, and other Spanish explorers arrived in Central America in the fifteenth century, they noted that cocoa beans were used as currency and that the upper class of the native populations drank cacahuatl, a frothy beverage consisting of roasted cocoa beans blended with red pepper, vanilla, and water.

While the Spanish initially found the bitter flavor of unsweetened cacahuatl unpalatable, they gradually introduced modifications that rendered the drink more appealing to the European palate. Grinding sugar, cinnamon, cloves, anise, almonds, hazelnuts, vanilla, orange-flower water, and musk with dried cocoa beans, they heated the mixture to create a paste (as with many popular recipes today, variations were common). They then smoothed this paste on the broad, flat leaves of the plantain tree, let it harden, and removed the resulting slabs of chocolate. To make chocalatl, the direct ancestor of our hot chocolate, they dissolved these tablets in hot water and a thin corn broth. They then stirred the liquid until it frothed, perhaps to distribute the fats from the chocolate paste evenly (cocoa beans comprise more than fifty percent cocoa butter by weight). By the mid-seventeenth century, an English missionary reported that only members of Mexico's lower classes still drank cacahuatl in its original form.

When missionaries and explorers returned to Spain with the drink, they encountered resistance from the powerful Catholic Church, which argued that the beverage, contaminated by its heathen origins, was bound to corrupt Christians who drank it. But the praise of returning conquistadorsCortez himself designated chocalatl as "the divine drink that builds up resistance and fights fatigue"overshadowed the church's dour prophecies, and hot chocolate became an immediate success in Spain. Near the end of the sixteenth century, the country built the first chocolate factories, in which cocoa beans were ground into a paste that could later be mixed with water. Within seventy years the drink was prized throughout Europe, its spread furthered by a radical drop in the price of sugar between 1640 and 1680 (the increased availability of the sweetener enhanced the popularity of coffee as well).

Chocolate consumption soon extended to England, where the drink was served in "chocolate houses," upscale versions of the coffee houses that had sprung up in London during the 1600s. In the mid-seventeenth century, milk chocolate was invented by an Englishman, Sir Hans Sloane, who had lived on the island of Jamaica for many years, observing the Jamaicans' extensive use of chocolate. A naturalist and personal physician to Queen Anne, Sloane had previously considered the cocoa bean's high fat content a problem, but, after observing how young Jamaicans seemed to thrive on both cocoa products and milk, he began to advocate dissolving chocolate tablets in milk rather than water.

The first Europeans to drink chocolate, the Spaniards were also the first to consume it in solid form. Although several naturalists and physicians who had traveled extensively in the Americas had noted that some Indians ate solid chocolate lozenges, many Europeans believed that consuming chocolate in this form would create internal obstructions. As this conviction gradually diminished, cook-books began to include recipes for chocolate candy. However, a typical eighteenth-century hard chocolate differed substantially from modern chocolate confections. Back then, chocolate candy consisted solely of chocolate paste and sugar held together with plant gums. In addition to being unappealing on its own, the coarse, crumbly texture of this product reduced its ability to hold sugar. Primitive hard chocolate, not surprisingly, was nowhere near as popular as today's improved varieties.

These textural problems were solved in 1828, when a Dutch chocolate maker named Conrad van Houten invented a screw press that could be used to squeeze most of the butter out of cocoa beans. Van Houten's press contributed to the refinement of chocolate by permitting the separation of cocoa beans into cocoa powder and cocoa butter. Dissolved in hot liquid, the powder created a beverage far more palatable than previous chocolate drinks, which were much like blocks of unsweetened baker's chocolate melted in fluid. Blended with regular ground cocoa beans, the cocoa butter made chocolate paste smoother and easier to blend with sugar. Less than twenty years later, an English company introduced the first commercially prepared hard chocolate. In 1876 a Swiss candy maker named Daniel Peter further refined chocolate production, using the dried milk recently invented by the Nestle company to make solid milk chocolate. In 1913 Jules Sechaud, a countryman of Peter's, developed a technique for making chocolate shells filled with other confections. Well before the first World War, chocolate had become one of the most popular confections, though it was still quite expensive.

Hershey Foods, one of a number of American chocolate-making companies founded during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, made chocolate more affordable and available. Today the most famousalthough not the largestchocolate producer in the United States, the company was founded by Milton Hershey, who invested the fortune he'd amassed making caramels in a Pennsylvania chocolate factory. Hershey had first become fascinated by chocolate at the 1893 Chicago World's Columbian Exposition, where one of leading attractions was a 2,200-pound (998.8 kilograms), ten-foot (3.05 meters) tall chocolate statue of Germania, the symbol of the Stollwerck chocolate company in Germany (Germania was housed in a 38-foot [11.58 meters] Renaissance temple, also constructed entirely of chocolate). When he turned to chocolate making, Hershey decided to use the same fresh milk that had made his caramels so flavorful. He also dedicated himself to utilizing mass production techniques that would enable him to sell large quantities of chocolate, individually wrapped and affordably priced. For decades after Hershey began manufacturing them in 1904, Hershey bars cost only a nickel.

Another company, M&M/Mars, has branched out to produce dozens of non-chocolate products, thus making the company four times as large as Hershey Foods, despite the fact that the latter firm remains synonymous with chocolate in the eyes of many American consumers. Yet since its founding in 1922, M&M/Mars has produced many of the country's most enduringly popular chocolate confections. M&M/Mars' success began with the Milky Way bar, which was cheaper to produce than pure chocolate because its malt flavor derived from nougat, a mixture of egg whites and corn syrup. The Snickers and Three Musketeers bars, both of which also featured cost-cutting nougat centers, soon followed, and during the 1930s soldiers fighting in the Spanish Civil War suggested the M&M. To prevent the chocolate candy they carried in their pockets from melting, these soldiers had protected it with a sugary coating that the Mars company adapted to create its most popular product.

Raw Materials

Although other ingredients are added, most notably sugar or other sweeteners, flavoring agents, and sometimes potassium carbonate (the agent used to make so-called dutch cocoa), cocoa beans are the primary component of chocolate.

Cocoa trees are evergreens that do best within 20 degrees of the equator, at altitudes of between 100 (30.48 centimeters) and 1,000 (304.8 centimeters) feet above sea level. Native to South and Central America, the trees are currently grown on commercial plantations in such places as Malaysia, Brazil, Ecuador, and West Africa. West Africa currently produces nearly three quarters of the world's 75,000 ton annual cocoa bean crop, while Brazil is the largest producer in the Western Hemisphere.

Because they are relatively delicate, the trees can be harmed by full sun, fungi, and insect pests. To minimize such damage, they are usually planted with other trees such as rubber or banana. The other crops afford protection from the sun and provide plantation owners with an alternative income if the cocoa trees fail.

The pods, the fruit of the cocoa tree, are 6-10 inches (15.24-25.4 centimeters) long and 3-4 inches (7.62-10.16 centimeters) in diameter. Most trees bear only about 30 to 40 pods, each of which contains between 20 and 40 inch-long (2.54 centimeters) beans in a gummy liquid. The pods ripen in three to four months, and, because of the even climate in which the trees grow, they ripen continually throughout the year. However, the greatest number of pods are harvested between May and December.

Of the 30 to 40 pods on a typical cacao tree, no more than half will be mature at any given time. Only the mature fruits can be harvested, as only they will produce top quality ingredients. After being cut from the trees with machetes or knives mounted on poles (the trees are too delicate to be climbed), mature pods are opened on the plantation with a large knife or machete. The beans inside are then manually removed.

Still entwined with pulp from the pods, the seeds are piled on the ground, where they are allowed to heat beneath the sun for several days (some plantations also dry the beans mechanically, if necessary). Enzymes from the pulp combine with wild, airborne yeasts to cause a small amount of fermentation that will make the final product even more appetizing. During the fermenting process, the beans reach a temperature of about 125 degrees Fahrenheit (51 degrees Celsius). This kills the embryos, preventing the beans from sprouting while in transit; it also stimulates decomposition of the beans' cell walls. Once the beans have sufficiently fermented, they will be stripped of the remaining pulp and dried. Next, they are graded and bagged in sacks weighing from 130 to 200 pounds (59.02-90.8 kilograms). They will then be stored until they are inspected, after which they will be shipped to an auction to be sold to chocolate makers.

The Manufacturing

Roasting, hulling, and crushing the beans

  • 1 Once a company has received a shipment of cocoa beans at its processing plant, the beans are roasted, first on screens and then in revolving cylinders through which heated air is blown. Over a period of 30 minutes to 2 hours, the moisture in the beans is reduced from about seven percent to about one percent. The roasting process triggers a browning reaction, in which more than 300 different chemicals present in the cocoa beans interact. The beans now begin to develop the rich flavor we associate with chocolate.
  • 2 Roasting also causes the shells to open and break away from the nibs (the meat of the bean). This separation process can be completed by blowing air across the beans as they go through a giant winnowing machine called a cracker and fanner, which loosens the hulls from the beans without crushing them. The hulls, now separated from the nibs, are usually sold as either mulch or fertilizer. They are also sometimes used as a commercial boiler fuel.
  • 3 Next, the roasted nibs undergo broyage, a process of crushing that takes place in a grinder made of revolving granite blocks. The design of the grinder may vary, but most resemble old-fashioned flour mills. The final product of this grinding process, made up of small particles of the nib suspended in oil, is a thick syrup known as chocolate liquor.
  • 4 The next step is refining, during which the liquor is further ground between sets of revolving metal drums. Each successive rolling is faster than the preceding one because the liquor is becoming smoother and flows easier. The ultimate goal is to reduce the size of the particles in the liquor to about .001 inch (.00254 centimeters).

Making cocoa powder

  • 5 If the chocolate being produced is to be cocoa powder, from which hot chocolate and baking mixes are made, the chocolate liquor may be dutched, a process so-named because it was invented by the Dutch chocolate maker Conrad van Houten. In the dutching process, the liquor is treated with an alkaline solution, usually potassium carbonate, that raises its pH from 5.5 to 7 or 8. This increase darkens the color of the cocoa, renders its flavor more mild, and reduces the tendency of the nib particles to form clumps in the liquor. The powder that eventually ensues is called dutch cocoa.
  • 6 The next step in making cocoa powder is defatting the chocolate liquor, or removing large amounts of butter from it. This is done by further compressing the liquor between rollers, until about half of the fat from its cocoa beans has been released. The resulting solid material, commonly called press cake, is then broken, chopped, or crushed before being sifted to produce cocoa powder. When additives such as sugar or other sweeteners have been blended, this cocoa powder becomes a modern version of chocalatl.

Making chocolate candy

  • 7 If the chocolate being produced is to become candy, the press cake is remixed with some of the removed cocoa butter. The restored cocoa butter is necessary for texture and consistency, and different types of chocolate require different amounts of cocoa butter.
  • 8 The mixture now undergoes a process known as conching, in which it is continuously turned and ground in a huge open vat. The process's name derives from older vats, which resembled large conch shells. The conching process can last from between three hours to three days (more time is not necessarily better, however). This is the most important step in making chocolate. The speed and temperature of the mixing are critical in determining the quality of the final product.
  • 9 Another crucial aspect of conching is the time and rate at which other ingredients are added. The ingredients added during conching determine what type of chocolate is produced: sweet chocolate consists of chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, sugar, and vanilla; milk chocolate contains sweet chocolate with powdered whole milk or whole liquid milk.
  • 10 At the end of the conching process, the chocolate is poured into molds, cooled, cut, and wrapped.

Quality Control

Proportions of ingredients and even some aspects of processing are carefully guarded secrets, although certain guidelines were set by the 1944 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Law, as well as more recent laws and regulations. For example, milk chocolate must contain a minimum of 12 percent milk solids and 10 percent chocolate liquor. Sweet chocolate, which contains no milk solids, must contain at least fifteen percent chocolate liquor. The major companies, however, have a reputation for enforcing strict quality and cleanliness standards. Milton Hershey zealously insisted upon fresh ingredients, and the Mars company boasts that its factory floors harbor fewer bacteria than the average kitchen sink. Moreover, slight imperfections are often enough to prompt the rejection of entire batches of candy.

The Future

Although concerns about the high fat and caloric content of chocolate have reduced per capita consumption in the United States from over twenty pounds (9.08 kilograms) per year to around fourteen (6.36 kilograms), chocolate remains the most popular type of confection. In addition, several psychiatrists have recently speculated that, because the substance contains phenylethylamine, a natural stimulant, depressed people may resort to chocolate binges in an unknowing attempt to raise their spirits and adjust their body chemistry. Others have speculated that the substance exerts an amorous effect. Despite reduced levels of consumption and regardless of whether or not one endorses the various theories about its effects, chocolate seems guaranteed to remain what it has been throughout the twentieth century: a perennial American favorite.

Where To Learn More


Chocolate Manufacturers' Association of the U.S.A. The Story of Chocolate.

Hirsch, Sylvia Balser and Morton Gill Clark. A Salute to Chocolate. Hawthorn Books, 1968.

O'Neill, Catherine. Let's Visit a Chocolate Factory. Troll Associates, 1988.


Cavendish, Richard. "The Sweet Smell of Success," History Today. July, 1990, pp. 2-3.

"From Xocoatl to Chocolate Bars," Consumer Reports. November, 1986, pp. 696-701.

Galvin, Ruth Mehrtens. "Sybaritic to Some, Sinful to Others, but How Sweet it Is!" Smithsonian. February, 1986, pp. 54-64.

Marshall, Lydia and Ethel Weinberg. "A Fine Romance," Cosmopolitan. February, 1989, pp. 52-4.

Lawrence H. Berlow


views updated May 14 2018


An ingredient of many popular treatscandies, sweets, baked goods, soft drinks, hot drinks, ice cream, and other frozen desserts. It is prepared, often as a paste, from the roasted crushed seeds (called cocoa beans) of the small South American cacao tree called Theobroma cacao (this is not the shrub known as the COCA PLANT, which produces COCAINE, Erythroxylon coca ).

The cacao tree has small yellowish flowers, followed by fleshy yellow pods with many seeds. The dried, partly fermented fatty seeds are used to make the paste, which is mixed with sugar to produce the chocolate flavor loved throughout the world. Cocoa butter and cocoa powder are other important extracts from the bean. Cocoa beans were introduced to Europe by the Spanish, who brought them back from the New World in the sixteenth century. They had first been used by the civilizations of the New WorldMexicans, Aztecs, and Mayan royaltyin a ceremonial unsweetened drink and as a spice in special festive foods, such as molé. They were first used in Europe by the privileged classes to create a hot, sweet drink. By the seventeenth century, cocoa shops and Coffee shops (cafés) became part of European life, serving free TOBACCO with drinks and thereby increasing trade with the New World colonies.

Chocolate produces a mild stimulating effect caused by the THEOBROMINE and CAFFEINE it contains. Both are ALKALOIDS of the chemical class called xanthines. Theobromine in high doses has many effects on the body, and it is possible to become addicted to some xanthines, such as caffeine. Nevertheless, some people are so attracted to the flavor that compulsive or obsessive use has resulted in the newly coined term chocoholic. Some scientists are researching the phenylethylamine in chocolate as the factor that encourages compulsive chocolate ingestion.


Serafin, W. E. (1996). Drugs used in the treatment of asthma. In J. G. Hardman et al. (Eds.), The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics, 9th ed. (pp. 659-682). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Michael J. Kuhar


views updated May 21 2018

choc·o·late / ˈchäk(ə)lit; ˈchôk-/ • n. a food preparation in the form of a paste or solid block made from roasted and ground cacao seeds, typically sweetened. ∎  a candy made of or covered with this: a box of chocolates. ∎  a drink made by mixing milk with chocolate: sipping on hot chocolate. ∎  a deep brown color: [as adj.] huge spiders, yellow and chocolate brown. DERIVATIVES: choc·o·lat·y (also choc·o·lat·ey) adj.ORIGIN: early 17th cent. (in the sense ‘a drink made with chocolate’): from French chocolat or Spanish chocolate, from Nahuatl chocolatl ‘food made from cacao seeds,’ influenced by unrelated cacaua-atl ‘drink made from cacao.’


views updated May 11 2018

chocolate Made from cocoa nibs (husked, fermented, and roasted cocoa beans) by refining and the addition of sugar, cocoa butter, flavouring, lecithin, and, for milk chocolate, milk solids. It may also contain vegetable oils other than cocoa butter. Originally from Central America, xocoatl is a cold drink made from cocoa flavoured with honey, spices and vanilla; according to Aztec mythology the god of air, Quetzalcoatl, came to earth and taught human beings to cultivate various crops, including cacao. First use of cocoa as a food rather than a beverage was developed by the Dutch cocoa merchant Conrad van Houten in 1815; first milk chocolate for eating invented in 1875, by adding sweetened condensed milk.

A 100‐g portion of milk chocolate is a rich source of copper; a good source of calcium; a source of protein, vitamin B2, iron, and selenium; contains 30 g of fat, of which 60% is saturated and 30% mono‐unsaturated; supplies 540 kcal (2270 kJ). A 100‐g portion of plain chocolate is a rich source of copper; a source of protein and iron; fat and energy as for milk chocolate.


views updated May 29 2018


Chocolate is an ingredient of many popular treats, such as candies, baked goods, hot drinks, and ice cream. It is prepared, often as a paste, from the roasted crushed seeds (called cocoa beans) of the South American cacao tree (Theobroma cacao). Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, both of which produce a mild stimulating effect. The word "chocoholic" was coined to describe people especially attracted to chocolate flavor.

see also Caffeine.


views updated May 29 2018

chocolate Like cocoa, chocolate was originally a drink (introduced to Europe in the 1500s) produced from the seeds of the tropical tree Theobroma cacao. The seeds are beans contained in an elliptical pod, and do not have the flavour or colour of chocolate until they have been fermented and roasted. The beans are then ground up to make chocolate powder. The first chocolate bar was produced in the late 1700s.


views updated May 21 2018

chocolate beverage made from seeds of the cacao tree; paste made from these ground. XVII. — F. chocolat, or its source Sp. chocolate — Nahuatl chocolatl article of food made from cacao seeds; this seems to have been confounded by Europeans with cacaua-atl, which was actually a drink made from cacao.