The Sweet, Social Legacy Of Cadbury Chocolate When Deborah Cadbury was a child, an enormous box of Cadbury chocolates arrived on her doorstep every Christmas. It was just one of the perks of being related to a famous chocolate dynasty: the Cadburys. Cadbury delves into her family's legacy in Chocolate Wars.
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The Sweet, Social Legacy Of Cadbury Chocolate

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The Sweet, Social Legacy Of Cadbury Chocolate

The Sweet, Social Legacy Of Cadbury Chocolate

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Halloween is nearly upon us, and if the thought of all that candy has already got your sweet tooth working overtime, then you need to pay attention to this next story. A new book chronicles the cutthroat competition among a few great chocolate making dynasties. The book is called "Chocolate Wars" and it's written by a member of one of those dynasties, the Cadburys.

Deborah Cadbury, welcome.

Ms. DEBORAH CADBURY (Author, "Chocolate Wars"): Good morning.

KELLY: So Cadbury was a family business for generations, and I understand your branch of it was not directly involved in running the company, but I loved reading in your book that as a child every year an enormous box of Cadbury chocolates would arrive. This was courtesy of a favorite uncle?

Ms. CADBURY: That's right. It was magnificent. Absolutely huge box of chocolates arrived, and opening it, the scent, you know, of all this chocolate, it was just something that you, you never forgot. There was always this sense of this chocolate factory somewhere in the family.

KELLY: Take us back to the origins of the company. This was in London in the early 19th century?

Ms. CADBURY: That's right. The original founders were Quakers and they were trying to come up with something that they thought would be a nutritious alternative to alcohol, which was, you know, the ruin of many poor families, and they were trying to come up with a business idea that was actually going to help people, and cocoa was this amazing commodity and they thought, well, they could make a business out of, you know, this nutritious drink.

KELLY: And it wasn't an easy thing to do, though. The Cadbury's, as the other families and companies struggling with this, at first were marketing it, as you say, as a health drink, but it took a while to figure out how to make an eating chocolate, as they called it.

Ms. CADBURY: Yeah. Victorian chocolate is just not something that we would recognize today because there was no way of separating out the cocoa butter from the rest of the cocoa bean and so it could be very fatty, you know, with the oil sort of floating in suspension on top. And the early products had things like lentils mixed in with it, or pearl barley, all sorts of products to sort of mop up the fat. So it was a little while before we realized the magic that there was to get out of the cocoa bean.

KELLY: As I understand it, a lot of the big British chocolate makers in the early days were Quaker, a religion that one does not think of combining with big business. How did they manage to do it? You write about a term, Quaker capitalism. Explain.

Ms. CADBURY: Yes. Because the point about the business was not that you make a lot of money and then you give it away, then you become a philanthropist. Right from the off, the business was to benefit others. And as soon as they were able, they were doing things like, you know, raising the wages of their workforce, introducing Saturdays off, introducing pensions, introducing unemployment benefits and sickness benefits. And they didn't stop there. They then started to think, well, actually, the business shouldn't just benefit the workforce. It should benefit the whole community and that led to these Quaker utopian villages.

And critics absolutely scoffed at this idea. You know, when George and Richard first said they were going to move their little chocolate factory out into the field, critics were saying, well, who ever heard of pleasant sights and wholesome smells making money; you know, these Cadbury brothers were fanatics and they were soon going to be bankrupt. But Bournville most certainly proved them wrong.

KELLY: Let me fast forward now to the 21st century. Cadbury had positioned itself as the world's biggest confectionery company and then a twist came just this year. What happened?

Ms. CADBURY: Well, Kraft made an offer for Cadbury. There was, you know, a very hotly contested takeover battle, and a lot of opposition in this country. However, Kraft was successful in its takeover battle and Cadbury is now a division of Kraft.

KELLY: It ended up being one of the largest acquisitions in British corporate history.

Ms. CADBURY: That's right. That right. By the end of the takeover battle, hedge funds had bought up 30 percent of Cadbury and wanted the company to end. So the idea that this iconic firm could be sold for short-term profits really caused a stir over here and has made people question the degree to which there is too much emphasis on short-term gains in business rather than long-term business goals, which is what those Quaker stewards were all about. And the challenge for Kraft really is to see what aspects of Cadbury Quaker history can be incorporated into the business model to make sure that Kraft really uses the business as a force for good.

KELLY: Well, thank you so much.

Ms. CADBURY: Thank you.

KELLY: That's Deborah Cadbury. She joined us from our London bureau to talk about her new book, "Chocolate Wars."

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