women and chocolate

As I reached for my traditional breakfast of Peanut M&M’S this morning (peanuts=protein=healthy), and read a recent column in LA Weekly claiming women don’t like chocolate, well, I started getting really upset. 

Crystal Lindell
Crystal Lindell

The post, “What advertisers think women eat vs. what they really eat” was well-intentioned enough. It starts with a Venn diagram.

In a blue circle, it lists all the things women supposedly eat that advertisers don’t think they eat: pastries, pasta, cheese, red wine, fruit and craft beer.

I can tell you from experience that I love pasta and cheese. In fact, I sometimes eat those for breakfast, too.

Then, in a purple circle, it lists three items women apparently eat that advertisers think they eat, in short, the foods advertisers get right: ice cream, snacks, and vegetables. “Snacks” is a pretty broad term, but we’ll go with it.

But then, there’s the pink circle. The pink circle lists all the foods advertisers supposedly believe women eat that women don’t actually eat. There’s yogurt, salad, low-fat cereal, diet soda, fruity cocktails and... chocolate.

Yep. You read that right. Chocolate is listed as a food women don’t actually eat.  

But let’s back up a second, because yes, diet soda is gross. I hate the after taste too, so I get it. And low-fat cereal? That’s just dumb. Isn’t most cereal made from bran and stuff anyway? That’s pretty low-fat to begin with. Why do they have to go and take out everything that’s even remotely taste good?

So ya, I can see where some of the items on that list came from.

But chocolate? Say what now? Every woman I have ever met in my entire life loves chocolate. If the Venn diagram is to be believed, then the universe is about to collapse on itself.

Seeing as how I’m a very thorough researcher, I figured I should actually read the article to figure out what the heck was going on.

The writer, Christine Chiao, admits up front that the research is “unscientific.” She says she and her colleagues basically watched a bunch of primetime TV, recorded which food commercials were aimed at women, and then they asked a bunch of different women what they actually ate and cross-checked the two.

Sounds fair enough.

So where does this nonsense about women disliking chocolate come into play? Let’s see here, she says, “When it comes to chocolate, the reaction was mixed — with some enjoying the candy and others not.”

Hmm. Ok. Based on that alone, it sounds a bit harsh to throw it in the “What advertisers think women eat” side of the Venn diagram, but maybe she has more data to back up her claim.

She then links to a Slate article explaining how advertisers in the 1960s are to thank for images of “women falling over themselves for chocolate.”

And that’s it.

So ya, not much to go on there. I figured I should reach out and send her an email asking for a little more information. Something along the lines of, “If women really don’t like chocolate, that’s basically a cover story for a magazine like ours.”

Sadly, I didn’t get response from Ms. Chiao. And so, I will have to go on what she wrote in the column.

Unfortunately, she didn’t provide any exact numbers on exactly how many women said they liked chocolate vs. how many said they did not. That makes it hard to know if it was just two women out of 20 who said they didn’t really like chocolate and that was enough to put it in pink column. Or, if it was 50 out of a 100, which would be a totally different story.

Since we don’t know, I’m just guessing it was simply a few women who prefer sugar candy over truffles, which allows me to move on. Because I want to get to her point about advertisers creating an image that women are basically sexually attracted to chocolate.

While that may be a bit of an exaggeration, that has nothing to do with whether or not women like or dislike chocolate. Rather, it’s more about whether or not women are the only ones who like chocolate.

Sadly, men have been left out of the American chocolate market, and they’re brought up to believe it’s a girly food. Only after their girlfriends or wives beg them to just try a square of Hershey Special Dark do they finally realize that they too can indulge in one of life’s greatest pleasures.

And so, it’s not a matter of whether or not advertisers should be focusing their chocolate marketing efforts on women, but more on whether they should be focusing their marketing efforts on everyone.

And that’s likely the point the author of this post was trying to make. When food is labeled as being “manly” or “feminine,” it not only hinders people from experiencing something they might not know they love, it also affects the bottom line.

When companies start to realize that women drink craft beer and men like to eat chocolate, only then will they be fully able to tap into all the potential customers for their products.