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