CHOCOLATE WARS by Deborah Cadbury


The 150-Year Rivalry Between the World's Greatest Chocolate Makers
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The tale of the surprisingly cutthroat world of corporate chocolate-making, influenced by religion, science, slavery and globalization.

In early 2010, Kraft Foods acquired Cadbury, the longtime independent British chocolate maker. Deborah Cadbury (Space Race: The Epic Battle Between America and the Soviet Union for Dominion of Space, 2006, etc.), a descendant of the family that had run what was once the world’s largest confectioner, laments the ownership change, and makes her anti-Kraft bias clear in the opening and closing pages of the book. The narrative isn’t solely focused on Cadbury, however, and the author gives ample space to the many firms that have fought to dominate the market since the mid-1800s. At that time, Cadbury was one of a handful of Quaker-owned British confectioners that eschewed advertising and redirected profits to charity. But the firms weren’t especially talented at making very good chocolate, and they struggled to produce a tasty and sturdy chocolate bar. As American and Swiss firms like Hershey and Nestlé began to perfect that bar, Cadbury and others hastened to keep up. The author entertainingly captures the spirit of innovation—and occasional lobbying and corporate espionage—that pulled Cadbury from the brink of disaster. The family’s influx of profits, along with its do-gooder instincts, prompted it to construct Bournville, a corporate campus for workers away from the Birmingham slums, and to halt the slave-labor practices in São Tomé and Príncipe, where much of its cocoa was grown. Through the 20th century, the British companies were challenged not just by European companies but American juggernauts like Hershey and Mars, and Cadbury has a knack for capturing the driven personalities who launched these empires. Corporate growth has its downside, though, and some of the book’s personality is bled from the later chapters, as globalization begins to hold sway and the narrative focuses more heavily on merger negotiations. By the end, a better chocolate bar has been built, but Cadbury’s storytelling has faded as much as the company’s old Quaker-capitalist morals.

A fine pocket history of corporate confectionery, though there’s still room for a less Cadbury-focused entry.

Pub Date: Oct. 26th, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-58648-820-8
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2010


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