Saturday, 28 April 2012
Cadbury's as we know it today started from humble beginnings in Bull Street, Birmingham. A shop was opened by John Cadbury in 1824. It did not start as a confectionery shop but sold tea and coffee and home made drinking chocolate or cocoa which he made himself for his customers.
In those days cocoa and chocolate was a luxury and affordable by only the wealthy. John's experiments with chocolate and an aggressive marketing campaign soon made him a leading trader in Birmingham. The shop prospered and became more and more popular.
John Cadbury moved into the manufacturing of drinking chocolate and cocoa. By the early 1840's Cadbury operated from a factory in Bridge Street and went into partnership with his brother Benjamin. 'Cadbury Brothers of Birmingham' was now operational and the chocolate industry was given a much needed boost in the 1850's when the government reduced the high import taxes on cocoa. Chocolate was now within reach of the masses. Cadbury's received a Royal Warrant in 1854 as manufacturers of chocolate for Queen Victoria. After such a successful start the business fell upon hard times and John Cadbury's sons Richard and George struggled with the business after their father retired in 1861. Long hours with little reward and just sheer determination and perseverence kept them going.
New processes and a new product called cocoa essence helped the business improve so much so that by the turn of the decade they were able to move from the Bridge Street factory to what is now Bournville. The name is derived from Bournbrook with the brook being replaced for the French word 'Ville' meaning town. A shrewd move perhaps considering that French chocolate was regarded as the best in the world at the time.
In 1878 the Bournbrook estate, comprising fourteen and a half acres which was then countryside on the outskirts of Birmingham and was acquired by the brothers. With nearby rail and canal links and main roads it was an ideal location. The new factory was not completed until 1879. Cadbury's had now laid the foundations for what was to come.
Using expertise from abroad and with their first export order from Australia in 1881 the company prospered. Milk chocolate was introduced, the competition from Switzerland and France was matched with compatible products and those products were continually perfected until they could finally claim superiority in chocolate manufacture in both quality and taste. New recipes and experimentation created innovative new products that ensured their success.
Cadbury's moved on to become a limited company and after the death of Richard Cadbury the sons of the two brothers joined the firm headed by George Cadbury. This was very much a family business in every sense of the word.
New products followed swiftly and the business expanded. By the turn of the century the new factory employed some 2,500 workers.
Cadbury's was not just an ordinary factory. Far ahead of its time and under the direction of George Cadbury the workers were provided with housing, education and training. Pension schemes for employees and medical facilities ensured a healthy and dedicated work force. George Cadbury regarded the employees as part of his family and treated them well and with recognition for their services.
Cadbury's Dairy Milk became a household name. After the first world war the factory was redevoped and mass production began in earnest. A merger with J S Fry and Sons in 1919 saw the integration of well known brands such as Fry's Chocolate Cream and Fry's Turkish Delight which is still sold today. In 1915 Cadbury's Milk Tray followed and became a resounding success. The brand known as Roses commenced in 1938. These products became market leaders and placed Cadbury's at the forefront of world chocolate manufacture.
During the war years chocolate was regarded as an essential food and placed under the supervision of the government. After the war normal production resumed and Cadbury's went from strength to strength. More factories opened, new products and new technology improved production and the insatiable demand for chocolate just grew and grew.
In 1969 the Cadbury Group merged with Schweppes. Cadbury Schweppes Plc is a leader in confectionery and soft drinks both in the UK and abroad. With factories all over the world and a host of well known brand names it has become a household name in many countries.
Today Cadbury World has a visitor centre dedicated to the history of chocolate. Factory tours take the visitor on a guided tour of this massive chocolate factory and the factory shop with its keen prices ensures that the visitor will not leave empty handed.