Chocolate: The Bittersweet History

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The cocoa tree is believed to have originated millions of years ago in South America. In fact, the modern word “cacao” is derived from “kakaw” and is of Olmec origin and the first recorded use of the term was in 400 BC. According to historians, they believe the Olmecs were the first people to consume chocolate. Chocolate was originally used as a bitter beverage, roasted and ground into a paste and mixed with water, vanilla, honey, chili peppers and other spices to consume during ceremonial events such as births, marriages, funerals, and entrance into puberty.

Chocolate today is a $100 billion-dollar industry with Mars Inc, Mondelez International, and Nestle are the leading three chocolate firms in the world. Worldwide an estimated 7.2 million metric tons of chocolate is consumed every year. In West Africa (countries such as Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon account for 75% of the world’s cocoa market but get only 2% of the total industry revenue.

In the US most of chocolate sales occur during the holidays leading up to Easter, Halloween and Valentine’s Day.  Last year Americans purchased 71 million pounds of chocolate the week before Easter. Within the last week of October, nearly 90 million pounds of chocolate is sold. During the week of Valentine’s Day, 48 million pounds of chocolate is sold.

Europeans account for nearly half of all the chocolate the world eats. The average person eating about 24 pounds of chocolate per year.

Chocolate consumption is on the rise in Asian countries and consumes 14% of the world’s chocolate, unlike South America who consumes 8.7% of the world’s chocolate, and Africa consuming the least amount of chocolate at 3%.

The chocolate industry has a dark side as child labor and slavery has been linked to the industry, specifically in West Africa. As the industry has grown, so has the demand for inexpensive chocolate leading to cocoa farmers earning below the poverty level at less than $2 per day. As a result, child labor is used to reduce farmer prices.

Is the chocolate industry sustainable? The chocolate industry needs eliminate human rights issues such as child and slave labor. Giving a fair share of proceeds directly to the growers and produce cocoa without destroying rainforests. If you have any stories about cocoa production, please share in the comments section below.

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Roseland Hupp

Roseland Hupp

I am Roseland, and I travel, write, and take plenty of photos of different cities and countries I have travelled to around the world. My blog is for everyone who yearns to travel and learn about the diverse countries of the world. Subscribers to this blog will gain unique insight to travel through hands-on interactions rather than a hands-off perspective of a being a foreigner in a new land. Each post will reflect the truth of the locale it represents without any sugar coating added. You can learn more about me here.

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