The Future of Cadbury’s Chocolate

Ever since the Aztecs first worshipped the cocoa bean, mankind has experimented with various ratios of solids, fats, sugar and milk, and Cadbury has got it right.

The chocolate bar-barians at the gate are Americans.

If the Americans can afford to buy Cadbury, then let them.  Sentimentality over an undoubtedly great bar of chocolate can’t stop market forces, says Boris Johnson.

There comes a time when the Brits can be pushed around no more. We may have sold Rolls-Royce to the Germans. We may have lost Land Rover to the Indians. We have yielded to the French more control of our energy and water supplies than ever envisaged in the wildest fantasies of Bonaparte. But when it comes to protecting our chocolate – the taste of British childhood – then we turn and fight.

Across the land, across the political spectrum, the forces are gathering to repel the foe. As of yesterday, a Sunday newspaper had secured the signatures of 11,307 outraged readers in a “hands off our chocs” campaign.

Antony Worrall Thompson, the Top TV chef, has said that the unique taste of British chocolate is indispensable to his key dishes. Lynne Jones, the Birmingham MP, is demanding assurances for the future of her chocolate-making constituents. Will Hutton, the leading Leftist thinker, has argued that chocolate is a key strategic industry, and that if the last great British chocolate maker were to fall into foreign hands we would see a surge of support for the BNP. Why, oh, why, asks the Guardian‘s business pages, can we not stick up for our chocolate industry when the French are so good at protecting their yogurt makers?

Boris quotes no less a figure than Peter Mandelson who “has answered the agony of his compatriots by saying that he is “watching the situation closely”, and that no one should presume to take over British chocolate if their intention is just to “make a fast buck”. What will Lord Mandelson do, if he indeed detects such dishonourable intentions among the suitors? We do not know.

In the meantime, the Government is being urged by Mike Skinner, the rap star who hails from Bournville, to step into the breach. “Let’s all get together,” says Mike to his followers on Twitter, “and raise £10 billion”. That’s a lot of money, Mike, in these straitened times.

But then readers will understand when I say that the object of his compassion is no ordinary chocolate. We are talking here of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, the king of chocolate. In fact, I don’t mind if I am thrown into Pseuds’ Corner for saying this, but a block of it strikes me as approaching the Platonic form of the chocolate bar. It is what chocolate is fundamentally intended to look like and taste like. Ever since the Aztecs first worshipped the cocoa bean, mankind has experimented with various ratios of solids, fats, sugar and milk, and Cadbury has got it right.

How many millions of children have woken on a cold Christmas morning to find that reassuring oblong bulking out their stocking? The texture is hard and dense, but not brittle like some of the fancier Swiss brands. When you bite into a big bar of Dairy Milk, you have to flex your jaws like a weapon dog, and when you chomp down you not only have the ambrosial sweetness of the choc; the rugged geometry of the segments helps to emphasise that you are eating something pretty substantial.

This hostile takeover of Cadbury is not being mounted from Belgium or France or Switzerland or Austria – nations with vague pretensions to choc credibility. The chocolate bar-barians at the gate are Americans. We face an appalling choice of succumbing either to Kraft, makers of the plastic flaps of orange cheese, or to Hershey, whose Hershey bars have been likened in flavour – by independent experts – to a mixture of soap powder and baby vomit.

Hence the public outcry. And in the controversy there is a conundrum for Conservatives. There is a contradiction in Conservative thinking, a mixture a bit like a Cadbury Creme Egg. There is the surface toughness of free-market ideology, the hard necessity of exposure to international competition. Then beneath that is the gooey confusion of a general desire to protect old national institutions, and to honour icons of British culture, and to preserve time-honoured businesses and their dependants.

It is now two decades since the public was seized with an almost identical patriotic angst about the takeover of Rowntree by Nestlé. Thousands marched, and newspapers protested; and eventually Nestlé won. Not every change has been good. I miss the old Smarties tubes. But it is thanks to Nestlé’s global clout that Rowntree built a huge new Aero factory in York two years ago. It is thanks to Nestlé’s marketing drive that the world is now exposed to a dizzying array of Kit Kats.

To those like my friend Will Hutton, who see these takeovers as casino capitalism of a kind they would never tolerate in France, I should point out that UK GDP has grown by 48 per cent since 1991, while French GDP has grown by 35 per cent.

It may be the taste of British childhood, but it emanated from the udder of a French cow. And why not? Cadbury also owns the French brands Carambar and Malabar, and not even Sarkozy protests about this insult to French childhood.

There is nothing we can do, alas, to stop a takeover of Cadbury. What matters more is that British workers should have the talent and innovation to keep the company moving forward.

May I propose, since 34 per cent of its revenue is from gum, that it is high time the company comes up with a chewing gum that doesn’t stick to pavements? That would send the shares up.”

For the full article please see The Daily Telegraph

16 thoughts on “The Future of Cadbury’s Chocolate”

  1. Oh good grief, the loss of Cadburys is not just one chocolate factory. The name ‘Cadbury’ means something and “beneath that is the gooey confusion of a general desire to protect old national institutions, and to honour icons of British culture, and to preserve time-honoured businesses and their dependants” scratches the surface but only brushes the point. It’s not about nostalgia. It’s not even about chocolate or sweets. It’s about an attitude. An attitude that no longer exists.

    George Cadbury was a Quaker and gave good wages and built Bournville to provide housing for his workers. He looked after his own long before Elfen safety laws. Long before NuLabs socialist fist. Bournville was cutting edge in design and is still a not-for-profit housing association today. “Joseph Rowntree, the son of a Quaker grocer, was born in York on 24th May, 1834” and the Rowntree foundation still exists today. It still exists today doing good work for the people of this country. It supports communities and funds all sorts of projects, providing work and education. Notice they were both Quakers.

    Tony Bliar is about the most religious leader I can think of in the modern age except George Bush and the Pope. Cadbury and Rowtree weren’t political giants, yet look at their legacy. Look what they achieved. Look what they did. It was so much more than chocolate and confectionary. What legacy will the powerful men of today leave? How will we remember Alan Sugar? Tony Bliar? George Osborne? Ed Balls? Any number of bankers! What of their legacy? The loss of Cadbury is the loss of more than a factory.

  2. Very good comment Philipa

    I can see why Boris is keen to protect what he feels is such a British habit – Cadbury’s dairy milk is an icon of the past; its values and priorities.

  3. Not sure that I agree with the gist of this article. When compared to French, Belgian and Swiss chocolatiers, Cadbury’s makes a distinctly inferior product. There is a case for protecting the French, Belgian and Swiss chocolate industries because their chocolates are made from natural ingredients that are actual foodstuffs. Cadbury’s and Rowntree’s products by comparison are rather chocolate-like industrial products containing a host of chemical additives with no ‘craft’ tradition behind them. Sure, the British chocolate brands are familiar names but then so are prawn cocktail potato crisps.

  4. During the mayoral election campaign, Boris Johnson made allegations that his website was being hacked. They even made it onto Radio 4 news. [Ed: that was the Back Boris campaign website that was a temporary site – not this one]

  5. Incidentally, there was an interesting comment earlier (it’s been removed) asking if Boris JOhnson planned to provide any evidence that his website was hacked during the mayoral election (you may recall the allegation making Radio 4 News).
    [Ed: no, it has not been removed – this is off-topic and does not refer to this website – that was the mayoral campaign Back Boris site]

  6. If it was only chocolate, then not to bother too much, but it’s easy to feel that everything is up for grabs by foreign countries.

    There is a poem “ENGLAND” going the email rounds that starts –

    Goodbye my ENGLAND, so long old friend
    Your days are numbered, being brought to an end

    To be Scottish or Irish or Welsh that’s just fine,
    But don’t say you’re English that’s way out of line

    If you would like to have it then email me, Mr. Johnson.

    Incidentally, I more often than not agree with your articles, but I feel passionately that are losing out to the rest of the world, especially Yoorup.

  7. Brand Cadburys v Brand Nestle is my viewpoint. I wont buy any Nestle products at all,due to their babymilk powder promotion in poorer countries.. so my children have always had Cadburys and I have explained why & the history of the Quakers idea. Its hard when children are seduced by adverts. Nestle is the largest manufacturer and marketer of breast milk substitutes in developing countries, and because their practices are deemed as the most harmful. http://www.llli.org/llleaderweb/LV/LVJanFeb92p5.html
    People need to look beyond the Brand name & adverts to see what else a manufacturer is up to.

  8. Talking of things sweet, when are we going to get those long promised pics of Mel kicking Autumn Leaves around? “The Autumn leaves drift by my window, the Autumn leaves of brown and gold, Since you went away……..” Oh Mel, Mel a monkey’s world is cold and bleak without you. Toffee apples are just no substitute!

  9. Kraft have done quite well with Toblerone. They understand ‘brands’. I don’t think they would ruin the chocolate, but they would move production elsehwere, as Cadbury have begun to do with their factory near Wrocław.

  10. It is sad that Cadbury’s are to be lost in consumptive and unforgiving market forces, but aren’t we just crying over spilt milk?

    The old history behind the brand is gone as is ownership of the company by the family of the very same name. The erosion of the strong values behind the creation of this product is no longer and whilst there has been a slow and gradual decline in the iconic significance of this chocolate, one thing will remain reassuringly the same, forever more.

    The chocolate is, rather unfortunately, not very good quality chocolate.

    Whilst the reality of losing Cadbury’s to America feels as if we Brits are being milked of our history 😉 what are we really losing? Yes, employment opportunities, economic output and so on but in terms of chocolate, very little else.

    So I say, let America have Cadbury’s. And let England get on with the business of rebuilding its reputation as innovators and create a new brand of chocolate that’s actually ‘quality’.

  11. Great news for our “wonderful” banks and pension funds and generally for the City of London but very bad news for Cadbury’s which will now have to be asset stripped by Kraft to pay off the cost of buying this historic company started by the Quakers. So to sum up it’s a fantastic deal for fat city bankers and terrible for workforce at Cadburys. This is so typical of Britain in the last 30 years.

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