Sept 24th 2020
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Week 19- Cadbury's legacy
S for Sugar
In Birmingham, 1824, John Cadbury’s story begins, where he set up a shop selling tea, coffee and 16 varieties of drinking chocolates. During a time where the drinks were still only produced and available for the rich, he advertised “an affordable and most nutritional beverage for Breakfast… The cocoa nibs prepared by himself”.
Originally working from the basement in his shop, his first success allowed him to open a factory in 1831, and begin mass-production of cocoa powders, flakes, cakes and nibs. Then, the arrival of the new railway system provided him with many more opportunities. He opened an office in London and received in 1852 a royal accolade as cocoa manufacturers to Queen Victoria.
After the loss of his wife in 1855 he lost interest in his business, which was deteriorating. His two sons; Richard and George, would soon take over, having learnt the trade from the Rowntree’s family. They knew to be innovative, to develop a market for their brand, whilst simultaneously sticking to the strict Quaker rules, such as honesty, discipline, fair trading, no debts, no inappropriate speculation etc…
At the time, Fry’s was leading the market thanks to its new machinery and his innovative solid sweet chocolate bar. The Cadburys brothers had to work hard and be creative to stay afloat. They successfully convinced Van Houten to sell them his Dutch de-fatting machine (which served to separate the cocoa butter from the cocoa solid). The design of their new packaging and the volume of cocoa powder they were now able to produce, facilitated the creation of Cocoa Essence, the purest and most expensive cocoa drink on the market then.
This success was followed by the creation of their ‘Fancy Box’, an assortment of solid chocolates filled with a sugar paste (fondant), and of many more famous products that we would learn to recognise in the years to come.
Sugar, first classified as a spice, was introduced in Europe in the 12th Century, and was grown in the colonies by slaves, alongside coffee, tea, chocolate and other spices. It has been imported in large volumes to Europe since the 17th Century. Often used as a form of medication, or considered an expensive and equally luxurious good, it soon became a necessity in the average household. It was used as a sweetener for beverages such as tea and coffee, as well as to preserve fruit or to add to chocolate confectionary. As the demand for sugar grew, the price decreased.
Sugar is a high calorie food, which when added to chocolate, was advertised as highly nutritious. Chocolate bars or pastries became popular meal substitutes for city workers looking to save time as well as money. Cadbury even advertised it as more nourishing as a steak while today we avoid it, and find alternatives for health concerns such as obesity and diabetes which can arise when it is not consumed in moderation.
Most of the islands farmers, who were initially enslaved chose to keep growing and producing sugar and chocolate after the abolishment of slavery to become our suppliers instead.
Cadbury took part in all of these changes, but stood out by creating a village for their employees, contributing to their wellbeing by providing them with homes, healthcare and education.
The brand was then built on a foundation of strong ethics and a social system which later disappeared little by little as profits became a priority in the new business era of the 20th Century. It was finally sold to Kraft-Mondelez, one of the world leaders in food manufacturing.
Today, Cadbury has left British land, but not its mind, and for that reason will always be a part of its legacy.
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