Cocoa and Chocolate, 1765-1914
Cocoa and Chocolate,1765-1914 focuses on the period from the Seven Years War, to the First World War, when a surge of economic liberalism and globalisation should have helped cocoa producers to overcome rural poverty, just as wool transformed the economy of Australia, and tea that of Japan. The addition of new forms of chocolate to Western diets in the late nineteenth century led to a great cocoa boom, and yet economic development remained elusive, despite cocoa producers having certain advantages in the commodity lottery faced by exporters of raw materials. The commodity chain, from sowing a cocoa bean to enjoying a cup of hot chocolate, is examined in Cocoa and Chocolate, 1765-1914 under the broad rubrics of chocolate consumption, the taxation of cocoa beans, the manufacture of chocolate, private marketing channels, land distribution, ecological impact on tropical forests, and the coercion of labour. Cocoa and Chocolate, 1765-1914 concludes that cocoa failed to act as a dynamo for development.
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At a time where the consumer is faced with a supply-side which transforms the initial demand from the consumers to maximise its profit as well as deliver partially, some value to the consumer, this book has a particular relevance.
The case of the chocolate boom of the 1880-1914 is particularly interesting to read: product diversification based on innovation from Switzerland, allowing for easier logistics and delivery, and increased attractiveness for consumers, triggered an unprecedented growth described and documented with utmost care in this book.
This may give us food for thought when analysing some of today's markets:
-cafe chains based on an economic model of "you want coffee? You'll get milk", where the taste of the consumer gets trained away from classical coffee taste, which still has a market as sales of always more convenient and precise coffee machines show.
-Mobile broadband economics where the starting point has been "purely cellular" (as for pure unmixed cocoa), going through an era of package mix (cellular, Wifi) for the data allowance of consumers, and a trend from operators to keep increasing the relative part of the WiFi versus cellular allowance for data transfer/transmission.
Anyway, a thrilling read, with many underlying topics of interest:
-economic history of global exchanges
-producing countries versus consuming countries
-local production and consumption
-addictive commodity creation from few ingredients: role of marketing
-taste and preference of customers
-coffee versus chocolate as a beverage: economic competition and substitution.