Chocolate Wars: The 150-Year Rivalry Between the World's Greatest Chocolate Makersby Deborah Cadbury
With a cast of characters that wouldn’t be out of place in a Victorian novel, Chocolate Wars tells the story of the great chocolatier dynasties, through the prism of the Cadburys. Chocolate was consumed unrefined and unprocessed as a rather bitter, fatty drink for the wealthy elite until the late 19th century, when the Swiss discovered a way to blend/i>
With a cast of characters that wouldn’t be out of place in a Victorian novel, Chocolate Wars tells the story of the great chocolatier dynasties, through the prism of the Cadburys. Chocolate was consumed unrefined and unprocessed as a rather bitter, fatty drink for the wealthy elite until the late 19th century, when the Swiss discovered a way to blend it with milk and unleashed a product that would conquer every market in the world.
Thereafter, one of the great global business rivalries unfolded as each chocolate maker attempted to dominate its domestic market and innovate new recipes for chocolate that would set it apart from its rivals. The contest was full of dramatic contradictions: The Cadburys were austere Quakers who found themselves making millions from an indulgent product; Kitty Hershey could hardly have been more flamboyant yet her husband was moved by the Cadburys tradition of philanthropy. Each was a product of their unique time and place yet they shared one thing: they want to make the best chocolate in the world.
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.
The Washington Post
Booklist, October 1, 2010
“This tale of capitalist rivalry mixed with Quaker values makes for a very sweet journey.”
“This is a delicious book, seductive as a tray of bonbons, a Fancy Box in every way.”
The New Yorker Book Bench
“For chocolate lovers and Roald Dahl fans, some heartening news: Willy Wonka’s factory – or at least something that sounds very much like it – was a real place... Though Cadbury begins with teasingly enviable childhood recollections... the story she tells is really about Quakers, and one family’s continuous struggle to reconcile religious values – pacifism, austerity, sobriety – with the indulgent nature of their product and the ruthlessly competitive capitalism of the world in which they made their fortune... It’s hard not to root for these guys and the story is all the more bittersweet because we know how it ends.”
The Daily Telegraph
“Engaging and scholarly, confident and compassionate, Chocolate Wars is less a family biography than an impressively thought provoking parable for our times... A vibrant history.”
“Fascinating...Chocolate Wars presents narrative history at its most absorbing, peopled by colourful characters: the true story of the chocolate pioneers, the visions and ideals that inspired them and the mouth-watering concoctions they created... Deborah gives readers an insider look, fleshing out the stories around her family with her familiar competence as a bestselling historian and award winning documentary maker.”
“A fine pocket history of corporate confectionery... Cadbury has a knack for capturing the driven personalities who launched these [chocolate] empires.”
“Although written by proud Cadbury kin, the narrative is balanced and fair. This is a well written and well researched look at chocolate and the Quaker business tradition that any food or history buff will enjoy.”
“Chocolate Wars – clear, readable and richly detailed – is at least as much about Quakers as it is about chocolate... enjoyable.”
Financial Times, November 15, 2010
“Deborah Cadbury’s branch of the Cadbury family wasn’t involved in the chocolate business but she garnered a deep impression from a childhood visit to her cousins’ company and the reader of Chocolate Wars feels they are getting an insider’s view. Her own background as a historian and TV documentary maker means that this book communicates in an episodic and visual style, making what risks being a dull subject gripping as it flips back and forth around the world documenting parallel events in the emergence of the chocolate industry.”
Examiner.com, November 14, 2010
“The 150-year rivalry among the world’s greatest chocolate making families, is told by a descendant of one of the families. Just think what sweetness came out of these families' rivalries, depicted deliciously in this new book.”
Boston Globe, November 14, 2010
“Deborah Cadbury begins with a brief description of Quaker aims and humane business practices before moving on through the history of the family business. This takes in the truly exciting race to put Cadbury’s chocolate candy in every mouth, to the exclusion of that made by rival English Quaker firms, Rowntree and Fry, to say nothing of the Swiss Lindt and Nestlé. Her many faceted account takes in technology, distribution, and industrial espionage, advertising and packaging, labor relations and model housing for workers, the role of the firm and its owners in wartime and international expansion.”
Gulfnews.com, November 26, 2010
“Engaging and scholarly, Chocolate Wars is less a family biography than an impressively thought-provoking parable for our times.”
Los Angeles Times, November 28, 2010
“Fascinating…Read this excellent book.”
Philadelphia Inquirer, November 28, 2010
“The inside story of the 150-year rivalry among Cadbury, Hershey, Nestlé, and Mars is a fascinating and luscious tale. Deborah Cadbury, great-great-great-granddaughter of 19th-century chocolate maker John Cadbury, tells it eloquently in Chocolate Wars, drawing the reader into her epic of family and industry with clear love for her subject.”
Christian Science Monitor, December 1, 2010
“[Chocolate Wars] pits idealism against capitalism, religious piety against the forces of greed and cutthroat competition. Though, like great fiction, it defies belief, it’s the true story of our favorite guilty pleasure. Cadbury’s book, like her namesake’s famous sampler, is full of surprises and delights.”
Bnreview.com, December 2010
“This engaging history of the 150-year rivalry among the world's greatest chocolate makers—the English firms Fry, Rowntree, and Cadbury (to which the author, Deborah Cadbury, is an heiress), their European competitors Lindt and Nestlé, and the American upstarts Hershey and Mars—is delightful, especially for its fascinating portrait of the 19th-century success of Quaker capitalism, built quite remuneratively on the ideal that wealth creation entails responsibilities beyond personal gain.”
KREL (Florida talk radio) “The Happy Cook” “An eye-opening, illuminating book that features a cast of brilliant entrepreneurs…the story gripped me from start to finish.”
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)
Meet the Author
Deborah Cadbury is a writer, award-winning documentary producer for the BBC, the author of seven books, and a relative of the famous Quaker family that gave their name to one of the world’s most famous brands of chocolate.
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It was interesting to read about the history of Cadbury and their rivals. Reading how it was done way back when makes you appreciate what they went through and makes the chocolate all the more enjoyable now.
Especially enjoyed the history behind our favorite delicacy, chocolate. I never knew the Quaker religion played such an important role in chocolate. You can learn much by reading this book. I was amazed out how the Cadbury's, et al never lived for personal wealth and their employees came first. The last chapter was not as enlightening to me. I really did not care about the merger, but I was able to see how it changed the role of the English chocolatiers (sic). If you like history and you like food you will like this book.