Book Reviews

This article from Business in Vancouver January 11-17, 2011; issue 1107

Chocolate Wars: The 150-year rivalry between the world’s greatest chocolate makers

By Deborah Cadbury

Douglas & McIntyre, 2010

If you’re feeling in need of some choco-endorphins, read Chocolate Wars: The 150-year rivalry between the world’s greatest chocolate makers. Seriously, this is the business history book to sink your teeth into this year. Deborah Cadbury, scion of the famous Cadbury chocolate family, makes the story of the development of cocoa and chocolate into a page-turner that you can’t put down. And you’ll never look at a chocolate bar in the same way again.

Cadbury chronicles the fascinating development of the cocoa industry in Britain, where Quakers – maligned dissidents at the turn of the 19th century – were consigned to trade and kept out of the legal profession and higher education at Oxford and Cambridge. Quakers were astute businesspeople, who practised benevolent and patriarchal business methods that seem antiquated today. However, many of their principles – keeping debt low, treating workers well, paying debts back, taking modest salaries, growing businesses by dint of hard and persistent labour – are admired today as principles of corporate social responsibility.

Three Quaker families led the industry in Britain – Cadbury in Birmingham, Fry in Bristol and Rowntree in York. Today, all three have been absorbed by large food-processing conglomerates. Cadbury, the company around which the book centres, was acquired in a hostile takeover by Kraft Foods in 2009, after being energetically pressured by dissident shareholders to spin-off its Schweppes division, leaving the historic candymaker a prime takeover target.

This book weaves together several themes. The industrial revolution was a period of intense innovation and competition in the relatively new food-processing industry. Innovations in machinery and chemical techniques were keys to success, while unscrupulous manufacturers added strange ingredients such as red brick dust to make their cocoa easier to use. The slums and ill health of the poor made Quaker industrialists such as George and Richard Cadbury consider it their duty to improve the lives of the tenement dwellers of Birmingham. They built a new factory village with workers’ cottages and amenities outside Birmingham to provide workers and their families with fresh air and a place to grow vegetables. They personally taught classes in reading and writing after work to their labourers.

The book also examines the theme of the American 19th-century entrepreneur, including Milton Hershey, who built his chocolate fortune amid the cornfields of Pennsylvania.

Each technical innovation is described in fascinating detail, including Rodolphe Lindt’s discovery that leaving his cocoa bean roller mistakenly turned on during a vacation emulsified the beans and turned them into a better product than anyone had previously made.

The book ends with the bitter fight over Cadbury and the ensuing dismay across England that such a historic company had been taken over by an American conglomerate. It’s ironic to note that Kraft Foods had its beginnings in Canada, as did historic Canadian chocolate-maker Laura Secord, swallowed along the way by Cadbury itself. •

Jan Wallace is head of the David Lam Management Research Library at UBC’s Sauder School of Business.


By Barbara Kellerman

McGraw-Hill, 2010

Barbara Kellerman’s book brings together leadership lessons from great men and women. Practical and enlightening, her commentary and analysis help the reader understand why she considers each selection essential reading for a well-rounded leader. The book is organized into three sections. “About Leadership” includes writings by Lao Tsu, Confucius, Stanley Milgram and others who speak to what leaders should learn. In the second section, “Literature as Leadership,” authors as differing as Betty Friedan and Karl Marx show that the pen is a powerful tool. In the last section, “Leaders in Action,” Kellerman draws lessons from powerful leaders. Gandhi, Vaclav Havel and Queen Elizabeth I are just a few of the lives she draws from. Reading Leadership was a bit like getting an undergrad degree without leaving my chair. •

Treena Chambers is the marketing technology co-ordinator at UBC Bookstore.

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