When the world famous Cadbury chocolate business was sold in early 2010 following a hostile takeover bid from the American giant Kraft Corporation many investors were more than happy with the price they received for their shares with the total sale being worth in excess of £11 billion. For over a hundred years Cadbury’s really was a family business founded on strong Quaker religious beliefs, originally in Birmingham but expanding over the years to become a global confectionary and drinks business.
The Trade Unions, some members of the Cadbury family and much of the workforce were far less happy with the idea of a longstanding British company built on such traditional family business ethics being owned by a large US Corporation. Despite much adverse publicity towards Kraft and tacit support for the business remaining British from many politicians plus a strong media and PR campaign to leave Cadbury’s alone and protect British jobs the deal was completed in February 2010. Within days Kraft announced the closure of the Cadbury Plant in Keynsham, Bristol, which it had “indicated” during the negotiations would be kept open. 400 jobs were lost as production was switched to Poland. The Cadbury headquarters in Cheltenham was closed and other key management roles moved out of the UK, all of which left a bad taste over the deal.
The real irony for me was that with so much resistance to this hostile takeover from different sources in the UK it was Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), a bank with the UK tax payers as its majority shareholder, which funded the Kraft takeover with the American company needing to borrow some £7billion to make the deal happen. So in effect the UK taxpayer has directly funded yet another example of a successful British Company being swallowed up by large overseas competitors, which at the rate things are going leaves one wondering just what will be left as “British” or UK owned in the future. In the past two weeks alone Raleigh Cycles has been sold off to Dutch company and the Weetabix breakfast cereal business to the Chinese. Maybe this is what “Globalisation” is all about!
Today, a couple of years on from the Kraft deal completing, I read that the Great Granddaughter of George Cadbury the original founder of the iconic chocolate firm is planning to use the funds from selling her £30million house to once again offer chocolate from the Cadbury family to the UK market. Ironically she won’t be able to trade directly on the family name as the trademark Cadbury’s “signature” across every product is exactly that, a trademark owned and used by Kraft. Still, you have to admire Felicity Loudon for her determination to keep at least some of the Cadbury family involved with chocolate, and having vociferously opposed the Kraft takeover in 2010 famously describing Kraft as an “American Plastic Cheese Company”, she now seems determined to fly the flag for UK chocolate production and take even just a small amount of market share back from the Americans.
Where-ever your loyalties in chocolate production a Snack Machine from KSV holds a wide selection of chocolate, crisps and soft drinks, all available at the touch of a button, and maybe soon a Felicity Loudon product will be sitting there alongside the traditional Cadbury favourites.
Written By: Colin from KSV.