How many of you like chocolate?
I would think most people would raise their hands up. In fact, I have faint memories of visiting the Cadbury factory when I was younger. But honestly, apart from which chocolate brands I like (Cadbury!), I didn't know much about the chocolate industry. I read a bit about its history, but it wasn't centered around the chocolate companies.
What this book does, is to tell the story of the chocolate companies (not the chocolate), and how they've been affected, and have affected their society. It ends in the 21st century, with the takeover of Cadbury by Kraft. The book told me about issues I never knew about, such as the relationship between Cocoa and slavery.
In fact, the first time I thought about Cadbury as a company was during IB, when I read about Kraft's takeover of Cadbury. I didn't like the idea much, but this opinion wasn't cemented much until I read this book.
Can Chocolate influence society?
As this book was written by a Cadbury, a fair amount of it centers around the company. But in fact, I would think that at least half the book centers around the other chocolate greats - Mars, Frys, etc. The book jumps between the various chocolate bosses and how their interactions influenced the society at that time.
And I must say, I'm really impressed with the Quaker roots of Cadbury and the other chocolate makers. I heard of Bournville before, but I never realised what a great difference it made to the workers lives until I read about the working conditions before and after. In fact, I think that a factory-village like that would still be viable today. Actually, it'll be more than viable, it'll be sustainable, and will probably help to improve productivity (nevermind the paternalism in it).
But strangely, while I gained newfound respect for all the British giants, it wasn't the same for the American companies. Milton Hershey gave me the distinct impression of a selfish man, although in the end, it seems like his better nature won. And of course, Irene Rosenfield, the lady behind the takeover. As much as I would like to celebrate the fact that a woman is in such a high position, I can't help but feel like she was too ruthless. I suppose it can't be helped, but still, regardless of gender, I can't help but think that the takeover was way too ruthless.
All in all, this is a wonderful book. If you're looking for something interesting to read, you should definitely give this book a go.
In fact, you should read this book while eating chocolate. It's the perfect companion.
A Singaporean gal saying "hi" from Japan!