In 2009, in the United States, retail sales of chocolate were about $17.3 billion.
Oh, you’re not surprised at all by this huge number? You want to move along to the story *behind* the huge number?
Then let’s start with The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars (1999). This riveting story about two chocolate giants was written by the first journalist to be granted interviews with Mars executives since the company was founded in 1922. It is packed with marvelous inside information such as this comment from an employee:
- “You want to know why Mars doesn’t make any products with peanut butter? …It’s because the family doesn’t eat peanut butter. They don’t like it.”
Let’s leave the secretive, tightly controlled planet Mars and travel to beautiful Lancaster, PA, where Milton Snavely Hershey made caramels. That’s right, caramels. That is, until he visited the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. He arrived a maker of caramels, and he left a maker of chocolate. How did this happen? This sight may have had something to do with it:
- “The thirty-thousand-pound… temple was a masterpiece of edible architecture. From a foundation made of dark chocolate blocks rose columns topped by Teutonic eagles. The columns were made with swirls of white cocoa butter… Inside the the temple was a larger-than-life chocolate statue of the mythological Germania, complete with sword, standing on a pedestal that was decorated with…images of Bismarck [and] Kaiser Wilhelm I…” [Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams]
But much more compelling to Hershey was one of the fair’s other chocolate-related exhibits: machinery that turned cocoa beans into chocolate bars while amazed crowds looked on. Even before Hershey left Chicago, he had arranged for that very equipment to be shipped to him in Pennsylvania, so that he could begin making chocolate.
“Hold on,” you’re saying, “my absolute favorite chocolate bar is Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut. Where does Cadbury fit into the story?” You’re in luck: in 2008, John Bradley wrote Cadbury’s Purple Reign: The Story Behind Chocolate’s Best-loved Brand. In England in 1831, John Cadbury founded what became the company we know today. But the chocolate — I mean the plot — thickens: a mere two years later, a *real* Cadbury wrote Chocolate Wars: The 150-year Rivalry Between the World’s Greatest Chocolate Makers (which I haven’t yet read so I’m thrilled that we own it).
Why were so many of the world’s great chocolate company owners Quaker? Why does the title of every book about the history of chocolate seem to have a subtitle? You won’t find the answers in Candy Freak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America, whose author’s surname is, I kid you not, Almond.
This 2005 love letter to candy is very funny as well as incredibly informative. Mr. Almond traveled all over America to visit the factories that churn out, or used to churn out, candy of all descriptions. Who can resist a book with chapter titles like “A Top-secret Chocolate Situation” or “Mistakes Were Made” (the section on what he considers really awful candies)? Even the book’s non-chocolate-related information is packed with delicious detail.
If you’d like to see a movie in which chocolate is a major character, enjoy the gentle Chocolat (not to be confused with Chocolat, which is about something else entirely), based on Joanne Harris’s 1999 novel.