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Woke Chocolate and its Critics

Paul Shepard

Mar 15, 2023

Any serious chocolate aisle nowadays presents the consumer with an array of bars that are not just "fair trade" but adorned with various new certifications promising the provenance of your chocolate did not contribute to human trafficking or deforestation.

But take a closer look at the famously-exploitative chocolate industry and you'll soon realize that these assurances, which are easy to make, conceal the industry's continued half-measures.

According to the Fairtrade Foundation, a mere six percent of the price of a chocolate bar reaches the struggling farmers of Ghana and Cote D'Ivoire. Farmers in these countries, 90 percent and 70 percent, respectively, live below the international poverty threshold.

These two countries produce more than two-thirds of the world's cocoa. A 2021 US Supreme Court ruling made it even harder to hold international chocolate companies like Nestle and Cargill accountable for the trafficked and toiling farmers on chocolate plantations.

Michael Odijie, research fellow at University College London argues that paying cocoa farmers a living wage is the solution to both deforestation and the maltreatment of workers in the industry, since "raising income means they can employ more labor to replant instead of moving into the forest."

His study of smallholder farms in Cote D'Ivoire found that the labor cost of destroying forests to plant cocoa is just two workers, while replanting on land already being cultivated rises to the cost of eight workers. So far, 80 percent of Cote D'Ivoire's rainforests have been destroyed in pursuit of cocoa production.

In honor of Women's History Month, select chocolate aisles now contain, along with the usual "fair trade" and sustainability assurances, limited-edition feminist chocolate as Hershey resurrects its "SHE bars." The wrappers are emblazoned with "empowering adjectives" curated by the chocolate giant's non-profit partners.

The company drew unprecedented ire this year when it tapped trans activist Fae Johnstone, executive director of "Wisdom to Action," to serve as public face of the campaign. To its critics, Hershey seems to thereby imply that the month of March, earmarked for celebrating and empowering women, is by extension a month to promote the visibility of transwomen in particular.

Jeremy Boreing, co-CEO and self-styled "god-king" of conservative media company The Daily Wire, saw an opportunity for profit.

“As long as corporations and institutions across America continue to alienate half the country, The Daily Wire will continue building alternatives. Stop giving your money to woke chocolate companies that hate you," Boreing crowed, upon launching his own chocolate brand.

Consumers of Jeremy's Chocolate can choose between "HeHim'' or "SheHer" bars; the former contain nuts, while the latter do not. Boreing claims his impish celebration of the "chocolate binary" (his words) is on behalf of "all women and rational men" insulted by Hershey's choice of Fae Johnstone as a spokeswoman.

It's a formula Boreing has used before: In March of last year, the entrepreneur launched "Jeremy's Razors," a prescription service for razors and other grooming products. The startup came in response to the divestment of "Harry's Razors" from The Daily Wire over the latter's editorial perspective, which takes a hard line against what it terms "transgender ideology."

But the irony of Jeremy's Razors' success is that, despite its anti-woke marketing, the brand doesn't challenge but rather depends on the incessant virtue signaling of the mainstream.

Gillette received significant backlash for a in 2019 "toxic masculinity" ad, proving that performative wokeness doesn't necessarily translate into dollar signs. Harry's Razors, by pulling its advertisements from The Daily Wire, implied that it didn't need conservatives' business.

Jeremy's Razors fills this niche created by Gillette and Harry's. It is tailored specifically to appeal to insulted, outraged consumers written off by mainstream companies in their scramble to court more cosmopolitan consumers.

Jeremy's Chocolate has also pursued this business model, which so far appears to be paying off. The Daily Wire's Ben Shapiro claimed last week that the brand was envisioned and launched within just 24 hours of the return of Hershey's "SHE" campaign, and has since sold more than 400,000 bars.

You can bet that woke chocolatiers like Hershey and their opponents at Jeremy's will persist in fighting their conspicuous culture war to lull the American public into ignoring the real class struggle at stake, and judging chocolate companies by the superficial causes celebrated on their packaging.

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