Sept 15th 2020
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Week 18- Brands competition
R for Retail
Brand competition is not new. During the 18th Century, when all types of mass food production were in their infancy – including chocolate, it was about being the first and the best. This included the invention or use of a new machine, or perhaps unique product innovation.
However, when chocolate, and produced food in general, became more popular for consumption or industrialised, it quickly became about quality, volume, and profits. The art of doing business was born, and the world of retail started to proliferate.
Competition grew within the most populated cities, or those which had access to the new railway systems or near docks during the age of steamship, which facilitated people and products to move around and between countries, such as the Americas, New Zealand, Australia and Canada.
In London, York, Bristol and Birmingham, the manufacturing of chocolate was growing rapidly. Taylor Brothers, Rowntree, Fry’s and Cadbury’s were some of the earliest manufacturers to fuel this rivalry and to compete throughout the country with their respective products being distributed in various new retail stores.
All sorts of chocolate products were made on a factory scale; ranging from cocoa powders to tinned drinking chocolate or chocolate bars, each wrapped in fancy packaging. Shopkeepers were amazed by the quality of these products, which also had lower prices than hand-made confectionaries, allowing them to attain better price margins.
New markets also emerged for their goods, such as the British Navy – for their troops, as well as the general population who could now afford some chocolate products to indulge in as either a snack or nourishment whilst at work.
Advertising soon became a common practise, which was initially discouraged by the Quaker’s chocolate brands as “it was believed that a business should be built on the quality and value of its goods, advertising ones goods was like advertising oneself: abhorrent to a man of God”. (ref. chocolate wars)
Later, all the brands advertised their products when regulations for food quality became a threat to their reputation, and they had to claim that they used only nutritious additives or pure ingredients. Shopkeeper’s could also be prosecuted if they stocked chocolates without proper labelling, at a time where chocolate was commonly adulterated with cheap or unhealthy ingredients.
Some brands who were struggling, went a bit further than others by conducting industrial espionage or recruiting employees from other chocolate firms across the UK, and from abroad, who served as a mine of information. They were bribed for their expertise and recipes.
Although, this is not so different from what we do and expect today, when someone is hired in a company and asked to share their previously acquired expertise. There is also a lot of competition for employment or being head-hunted when you are proficient in your line of work is common practise today.
In the meantime, other brands all over the world, who were also contributing to and participating in industrialisation were also subject to fierce competition and the ethics that Quakers first withheld to grow a business and help their workers soon disappeared.
We thank you for your participation,
Programme in partnership with Melange Chocolate
"The True history of Chocolate" Thames & Hudson
"Encyclopedie du chocolate et de la confiserie" AFCC
"Collecting the World: The Life and Curiosity of Hans Sloane" by James Delbourgo
"Chocolate Wars" by Deborah Cadbury
"The Secret Life of Chocolate" by Marcos Patchett