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`Business was not an end in itself; it was a means to an end.',
This review is from: Chocolate Wars: From Cadbury to Kraft: 200 years of Sweet Success and Bitter Rivalry (Hardcover)
In writing this book, Deborah Cadbury set out to understand `the journey that took my deeply religious Quaker forebears from peddling tins of cocoa from a pony and trap around Birmingham to this mighty company that reached round the globe.' It's an interesting story, peopled with some fascinating characters, and spans almost 200 years from the beginnings of the business in 1824 to the takeover of the Cadbury chocolate business by Kraft in 2009.
In addition to members of the Cadbury family, the people we meet in the book include Henri Nestlé, who experimented with baby formula before becoming an internationally known chocolate magnate, and Daniel Peter (whose baby daughter Rose benefitted from Nestlé's baby formula) who successfully making a milk chocolate bar after experimenting with milk and chocolate for many years. We also meet Rodolphe Lindt, Domingo Ghiradelli, Milton Hershey and C.J van Houten (inventor of the cocoa press).
In the middle of the 19th century, the cocoa bean was almost invariably consumed as a drink. And not a particularly appealing drink: it was gritty and visibly oily. The first chocolate bar did not appear in Britain until 1847 (made by the Fry brothers) but it wasn't particularly appealing either.
The Cadbury brothers, George and Richard, were the third generation of Cadbury tradesman in Birmingham. Their grandfather Richard Tapper Cadbury had sent his son John to London to learn about the cocoa bean. A generation later, George and Richard had created a chocolate company. The Cadbury family were Quakers, as were the other British chocolate families of Rowntree and Fry, and their focus on worker welfare saw a number of innovative workplace reforms. Under George Cadbury's direction, workers were provided with housing, education and training. There were also medical facilities and pension schemes for employees. In 1878, the Bournbrook estate on the outskirts of Birmingham was acquired by the brothers. The new factory, at what was renamed Bournville, was completed in 1879. There was room for landscaped parks, including rose gardens, and for organised recreation, including cricket.
Cadbury's Dairy Milk chocolate became a household name after its invention in 1905, and mass production began in earnest after World War I. A merger with J S Fry and Sons in 1919 and the development of products such as Cadbury's Milk Tray and then Roses placed Cadbury's at the forefront of world chocolate manufacture.
It's all here in this book: a history of the Cadbury enterprise and of chocolate manufacture during the 19th and 20th centuries. The history involves exploration and innovation and, occasionally, espionage. The hostile takeover by Kraft saw the end of an era, of a Quaker company that had flourished on the principle of altruism and had taken over 180 years to build.
The book is interesting as well because of the information it includes about the role that Quakers played in English business and banking during the 18th and 19th centuries. By the early 19th century, some 4,000 Quakers were running English banks and companies, this was because their rules forbade them from entering Parliament, the Armed Forces and some professions (such as the law). Companies such as Bryant & May (matches), Clark (shoes), Huntley & Palmer (biscuits) and Wedgwood (chinaware) were all significant. In accordance with their own strict standards, the Quakers believed that wealth creation should fund social projects, that quality was paramount and that reckless debt was shameful.
I picked up this book on the basis of another review, and I'm glad that I did. Cadbury's chocolate has been part of my life for over 50 years, but I knew little of the history of the company or of the chocolate making process. This book brings both to life, as well as providing interesting information about the role of Quaker-run companies during the Industrial Revolution and beyond.
I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the history of chocolate, in aspects of the manufacturing industry during the 19th and 20th centuries and in the growth of advertising. It's sad, too, to see how the appetite for profit has starved notions of social welfare.