Business is business, the shareholder said as Cadbury’s board approved its takeover by US food giant Kraft.
But chocoholics greeted the news of a new era for the UK confectioner with a heavy heart – and let’s face it, probably other heavy body parts, too.
Kraft, whose best-known brands include Kraft Singles cheese slices, Philadelphia soft cheese and Oreo cookies, protests it will not change Cadbury. But chocolate lovers fear the worst.
As any UK visitor to the US will attest, American chocolate just doesn’t taste like it does at home. And perhaps that’s why Kraft was so eager to get its mitts on the treasure trove of Cadbury brands.
But it’s not only consumers who fear the future once the takeover is ratified by shareholders as expected.
When Cadbury was still just a twinkle in Kraft’s eye, Felicity Loudon, the last surviving member of the Cadbury family, expressed horror at the prospect of an American company taking over the company linked with her ancestors since 1824.
She said: “As a Cadbury, I obviously feel particularly saddened by the possibility of one of the last remaining British icons disappearing into an American plastic cheese company. I cannot believe that something can’t be done for totally patriotic reasons.
“My great-grandfather [George] would be turning in his grave. He not only created a brand that continues to give everyone a buzz and lift when the day gets tough or sad, but also the Bournville model village, which remains an example of caring employers looking after their loyal workforce.”
As her worst nightmare became reality, she told Sky News: “I'm angry. Really angry. I don't think anybody is thinking of what will happen to the workers.
“Kraft will have to asset strip to afford this. They will cut corners, they will sell out.
“To me they are a plastic cheese company and this is the jewel in the crown.”
Cadbury was lauded as an independent British company and for the philanthropic instinct of the Cadbury family, who were Quakers. George Cadbury – whose daughter Marion was the first woman elected to the Senate of Northern Ireland – established Bournville, a model village in Birmingham, close to the Cadbury factory for his workers to live in, and the company still employs 6,000 people in the UK – many of whom now fear for the future.
Like any company, it has innovated to keep up with competitors and responding to consumer trends.
Eighties favourite the Wispa bar was brought back into shops after an Internet campaign. It launched Cadbury’s Heroes as a riposte to Nestle’s Celebrations and bought Green & Black’s Fair Trade brand of organic chocolate to meet customer demand for ethically-sourced produce.
It remains to be seen whether it will continue to marry tradition and innovation in its new incarnation under Kraft Foods – though Kraft's chairman and chief executive, Irene Rosenfeld, has stressed the “great respect” the US company has for Cadbury's brands, heritage and people. “We believe they will thrive as part of Kraft Foods,” she said.