A Chocolate Opportunity for America

(Frank Leslie’s Weekly – April 12, 1917) Comparatively few of the lovers of the soda-fountain and candy counter are concerned with the source of the chocolate in the confections they order. Chocolate comes from the seeds of the fruit of the cacao tree. The fruit, which is usually gathered from the trees twice yearly, is somewhat like a cucumber in shape and is red or yellow in color, according to the variety of the tree. The seeds, which completely fill the thick husk, as this picture shows, are removed, fermented, screened and dried, and from them are prepared cocoa, cocoa-butter and chocolate.

Americans are the largest users of candy in the world and we have a particular fondness for confections flavored with chocolate or composed chiefly of that article. The soda-fountain is found only in the United States and Canada and of all the syrups used chocolate is the favorite. Despite these facts our chief sources of supply for cacao and chocolate were England and the Netherlands, countries which produce neither sugar nor chocolate.

From these unattractive pods comes the chocolate for dainty bonbons.

From these unattractive pods comes the chocolate for dainty bonbons.

A striking change indeed has taken place in our imports of cacao and chocolate since the war began. In 1913 we purchased about 149,500,000 pounds of chocolate. Of this quantity Europe supplied us about 71,000,000 pounds; Central America and the West Indies 41,500,000 pounds; South America 36,000,000 pounds and Asia about 1,000,000 pounds.

In 1916 a peculiar condition developed in our chocolate market, the imports of which reached the enormous quantity of 243,000,000 pounds. Of this amount Europe contributed but 2,000,000 pounds; Central America and the West Indies, 95,600,000 pounds; South America 97,700,000 pounds and, most significant of all, Africa furnished 28,000,000 pounds, an unusually large proportion coming from the Gold Coast of Africa and isolated English colonies.

Following, there developed in this country a large re-export trade in this commodity. In 1915 our total re-exports of chocolate amounted to 29,000,000 pounds as against only 5,285,000 pounds in 1912.

Frank Leslie’s Weekly, published from 1855 to 1922, was an American illustrated news publication started by publisher and illustrator Frank Leslie. While only 30 copies of the first edition were printed, by 1897 its circulation had grown to an estimated 65,000 copies.

There exists no valid reason why we should not go on increasing our export trade in both chocolates and candies. Our nearness to the leading sugar-producing countries, and our closeness to Trinidad, Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador, the principal cacao-growing territories makes conditions ideal for this purpose. Furthermore the purchase of cacao from the West Indies and Central and South American markets would aid materially in the development of a reciprocal trade, the only proper basis on which to establish export markets.

It is a fact that all the sugar-raising countries raise cacao also. This being the case I have often wondered why progressive manufacturers do not make chocolate where it is grown instead of shipping the essential ingredients to factories thousands of miles away at great expense in freight and other forwarding charges. There are really wonderful opportunities for manufacturing this commodity in Trinidad, Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador.

Latin-America offers an unusual opportunity to American manufacturers in another line of goods. All Latin-American countries are to-day in need of furniture, and excellent markets for these goods are to be found in the principal cities. Formerly Austria, France and Germany supplied their requirements. Bent wood furniture is in great demand. In order to secure this trade, exporters must remember that the legs and portions of articles of furniture touching the floor should be creosoted or treated with some solution to prevent the attacks of the numerous wood-eating insects of the tropics, which devour the interior of chair and table legs, leaving intact the outer shell of varnish, the damage done being only noticed when one attempts to use the piece of furniture. One method of preventing such attacks is to place legs of furniture in cups or saucers of kerosene, but the European furniture manufacturer had a means of treating wood that made it insect-proof and this gave him a leverage on the market. Light metal furniture, treated with a rust preventive compound for rainy districts, I am sure would also sell well.

All images included in blog posts are from either Accessible Archives collections or out of copyright public sources unless otherwise noted. Common sources include the Library of Congress, The Flickr Commons, Wikimedia Commons, and other public archives.

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