Friday, March 1, 2013

Cadbury Delight

Rachel and her family outside the Cadbury factory in Birmingham, England
Have you been to our Coffee with the Curator program? This morning we had a delicious presentation by Marketing Assistant Rachel Stanley on the history of Cadbury chocolate.

Rachel chose to give a presentation on Cadbury because of the chocolate's popularity around Easter time and her recent experience living in England.

"I studied for four months in Birmingham, the birth-place of the Industrial Revolution," she said. "Cadbury was one of several large companies founded in the area., but historic for their global presence and working conditions."

John Cadbury, founder
Cadbury was founded by John Cadbury in 1824. He started with just a small tea shop but experimented with drinking chocolate and cocoa. As a Quaker, John was looking for a healthy alternative to alcohol. He prepared the chocolate himself using a pestle and mortar.

The Cadbury manufacturing business was born in 1831 when John decided to start producing on a commercial scale and bought a four-story warehouse in downtown Birmingham. The business later moved to a bigger factory in Bournville due to expansion.

At this point in Cadbury history John was still focused on expanding products and service. He provided 16 varieties of drinking chocolate and 11 different cocoas! In 1847 the world of chocolate was revolutionized when a company named Fry's produced the first chocolate bar in France. The first bars were made from a mixture of cocoa powder and sugar with a little of the melted cocoa butter that had been extracted from the beans. The result was a chocolate bar that could be molded. This revolution motivated Cadbury to create his own chocolate bars and make them taste better!

As John got older, his health worsened. In 1861 he finally retired and handed the business over to his two sons, Richard and George. The brothers were just 25 and 21 at the time, but took charge of the business and invested 8,000 Great British Pounds (about 600,000 GBP today) in its future. They lived frugally for many years to keep the company afloat.

The turning point for the business was in 1866 with the launch of "Cadbury Cocoa Essence." Before the launch of this chocolate, the cocoa product contained high levels of cocoa butter. The business was forced to add a great deal of starches and extra ingredients to mask this taste and texture. However, in 1866 George Cadbury took a chance and purchased a new type of press from the Dutch. The cocoa press squeezed out much of the cocoa butter from the beans, so it was no longer necessary to add starches. This created the "purest" chocolate in the United Kingdom, and dramatically increased sales and transformed the business into the worldwide company that Cadbury is today.

In 1875 the Swiss began to produce something new: Milk Chocolate. The Cadbury's had been using powdered milk for years but the Swiss were ahead of them, using condensed milk instead. The condensed milk gave the chocolate a superior taste and texture, and once again the Cadbury brothers had a challenge to overcome.

The first Cadbury Egg was also made in 1875, although they were very different from the Creme Eggs we know and love today! The earliest eggs were made with dark chocolate and had a smooth, plain surface. They were filled with sugar-coated chocolate drops.

At this time the Cadbury brothers were forced to look for a bigger factory. The company had grown so much that the four-story building in downtown Birmingham was no longer big enough. This gave birth to the idea of Bournville, the future home of Cadbury and its workers.

Bournville Factory
The Cadbury brothers wanted their factory to be bright, airy and lively. George asked, "If the country is a good place to live in, why not to work in?" The brothers set out to build a factory in the countryside, just outside Birmingham. They also made plans for cottages and villiage life for their workers.

The new site in Bournville had canal, train and road links and a good water supply. The Cadbury brothers especially took care to build a nice living area for their workers, including playing fields, gardens and individual cottages rather than "back-to-back" apartments. They also organized sports and recreational activities, country outings, summer camps and even Bible groups. When the workers arrived they found working conditions that were simply unheard of in the Victorian era!

Cadbury Dairy Milk was launched in 1904 when Cadbury was given the challenge to develop a milk chocolate bar with more milk than anything else on the market. It was Cadbury's biggest seller by the beginning of the First World War, and is now a "megabrand," available all over the world.

During WWII Cadbury faced major challenges: rationing was enforced and manufacturers were banned from using fresh milk. Cadbury was forced to stop all production of their most popular products, but produced an alternative "Ration Chocolate" using dried skimmed milk powder. After the war it was questionable if Cadbury would come back from the devastating years, but the family was persistent and the company worked hard to restore business as usual.

The famous Creme Eggs were first produced in 1971. Sales really took off in 1975, when Cadbury Creme Egg became a cult through the power of TV advertising. About 1.5 million Cadbury Creme Eggs can be made every day at the Bournville factory, and over 200 million of them are sold every year just in the UK alone.

Cadbury chocolate has made history, not only for the chocolate but also for "ahead of the times" worker conditions and a culture placing importance on global issues. Recently Cadbury made the move to becoming a Fairtrade company, tripling the sales for cocoa farmers in Ghana under Fairtrade terms and opening up new opportunities for thousands more farmers to benefit from the Fairtrade system.

Come to our Coffee with the Curator event on the last Thursday of every month to hear more interesting history and stories. Our next session on March 28 will be on culture in Japan! To read more about Cadbury and see the original photos, please visit

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