So nowadays everyone decries the loss of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. “Oh, isn’t it terrible,” when another million factory workers lose their jobs. Part of the problem, in addition to all the complex ramifications of trade agreements and cheap labor in emerging economies, is that the culture doesn’t support or promulgate stories about manufacturing anymore. There are no factory workers glorified in movies or TV shows or rap songs. Even the two protypical blue collar icons on TV, Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden and Kevin James as The King of Queens, were not factory workers but drivers, Everyone else either has some sort of ambiguous career, works in an office somewhere, or is in sports or show business. Kids don’t grow up anymore wanting to work on the assembly line.
With one exception: chocolate factories. It seems to be the only business that, even during hard economic times, attracts new manufacturing ventures. And what child hasn’t dreamt of being Willie Wonka, in charge of his own chocolate factory?
Willie Harcourt-Cooze in England uses the Willie Wonka symbolism a lot in his promotion of Willie’s Delectable Cacao chocolate bars, which he manufactures from beans grown on his Venezuelan cacao plantation. A celebrity chef, he also has a hit British TV show, Willie’s Chocolate Revolution, and is attempting to transform the image of chocolate as a frivolous confection to that of a healthy superfood--while keeping the fun and flavor factors alive.
Steve Adler, raw food guru David Wolfe’s partner in Sacred Chocolate of San Rafael, California, even dresses up as Willie Wonka, tall hat and all.
In Bradenton, Florida, a physicist has opened a new chocolate factory with 12 full-time production employees.
In San Francisco, a new “bean to bar” factory opened on Pier 17, TCHO CHOCOLATE, founded by a NASA physicist and the founder of WIRED magazine and starting out with thirty employees.
Chocolatiering is the new glamour profession, thanks in large part to all the data pouring out of countless research studies showing how amazingly beneficial chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, is to human health. Most of the new factories are focused on producing dark chocolate.
I don’t know if this will make a dent in the current economic crisis, but thousands of people are doing quite well, thank you, in chocolate manufacturing, even small home-based chocolate-making ventures, chocolate shop franchises, and chocolate distributorships such as those offered by Dove Discoveries, owned by Mars, and Tru Chocolate, and, of course, Xocai healthy dark chocolate, the industry leader, which just reported a 45% increase in first quarter earnings, thanks to being the first to market with their patented cold-pressing manufacturing process, and with no real competitors in the healthy dark chocolate business.
And the stock market recently received an upward bump with a surprising (though I don’t know why anyone should be surprised by such results in the industry most often cited as “recession-proof.”) earnings jump of 20% reported in the first quarter by the nation’s number 2 chocolate manufacturer, Hershey (Mars is now number 1). Hershey is still a dominant force in the world of chocolate, and of late has been doing some of its own cutting edge research into the health benefits of dark chocolate, as well as buying up small artisanal chocolate companies like Dagoba and Sharffen Berger (Mars has been doing the same and funding a multi-million dollar chocolate research facility.)
The dangers of this trend was recently confirmed when Hershey decided to close down the beloved Joseph Schmidt chocolate operation in San Francisco, laying off employees in the factory and the two popular chocolate stores four years after buying the company.
Many former customers passionately voiced their objects to Hershey, but to no avail.
Even raising product prices by Hershey and others because of increased cocoa costs around the world has not dissuaded chocolate-lovers from staying united behind their favorite treat.
Chocolate is one thing millions of people are passionate about, certainly more so than TVs, air filters, vacuum cleaners, pots and pans, winter coats, and other manufactured items. And passion is the one ingredient that can bring back manufacturing jobs to the U.S.
I think and certainly hope (as we all should) that there may be some of that same passion involved in building the green industries that everyone talks about. Making the planet more self-sufficient and self-renewing will take a lot of money and create a lot of new manufacturing jobs. It may not be as exciting as chocolate, but it could involve as much passion and sense of commitment.
After all, Al Gore is not nearly as charismatic a figure as Willie Wonka. But it was Gore who won the Academy Award, the Grammy, and the Nobel Peace Prize.
and by the way: I'm still gathering together a team of people who love dark chocolate and would love to earn some substantial extra income eating and sharing the healthiest superfood on the planet. Unlike most such marketing ventures, I am being very picky, and since I'll be working closely with my team, I want people I'd enjoy working with and supporting. If you want more information, even a sample of the most delicious dark chocolate imaginable, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org visit my website at www.UnguiltyPleasures.net, or
hear my three minute recorded message at (650) 589-8495. I promise you won't have to wear Willie Wonka's tall hat. (unless you insist!)