Bittersweet: How Kraft's Acquisition of Cadbury Ended the Dynasty of a CSR Luminary
The brainchild behind Velveeta and Miracle Whip has taken over a family company committed to the well-being of its workers
Kraft boss Irene Rosenfield has infuriated British MPs by once again snubbing them and refusing to show her face during an investigation by the Business Select Committee over whether Kraft misled workers and politicians during the company's aggressive bid to take over Cadbury, a historical leader in corporate social responsibility.
The two grandsons of George Cadbury, Sir Adrian and Sir Dominic, described the takeover as "a tragedy."
MPs were so frustrated with the "Queen of Kraft" that they considered issuing a subpoena to force her to answer questions about claims that were made during the takeover, including the promise to keep Cadbury's Somerdale plant near Bristol open. Following the acquisition, they announced the closure of the plant and 400 lost jobs.
"Essentially Kraft are saying 'bugger off'" Labour MP Ian Murray said, adding that "it's been unacceptable the way they've been dealing with us."
"Cadbury was a great British institution, and Kraft taking them over was always a risk, but that risk was mitigated by the promises we were given."
Indeed, Cadbury has had a fascinating history and serves as a relevant case study in what is now called "corporate social responsibility."
Award-winning documentary film maker and historian Deborah Cadbury, in her latest book Chocolate Wars charts the history of Cadbury, owned by two hard-working Quaker brothers committed to their workers' welfare, in harsh contrast to their Victorian rivals.
This commitment to the well being of their employees led the company to develop exquisite chocolates and build a "fairyland factory" where workers had the advantage of fresh air, space for cricket, swings for the ladies, a rose garden, and a family friendly atmosphere. The company created utopian model towns where the working class could enjoy a high quality of life.
Quaker capitalists believed that the goal of business was to serve society and improve local communities, rather than simply acquire wealth.
The centuries old business was based on the idea that chocolate was healthy for society and for families.
"The original founders were Quakers, and they were trying to come up with something that they thought would be a nutritious alternative to alcohol, which was the ruin of many poor families. They were trying to come up with a business idea that was actually going to help people, and cocoa was this amazing new commodity and they thought they could make a business out of this nutritious drink," Deborah Cadbury explained in a recent interview.
"As soon as they were able, they were doing things like raising the wages of their workforce, introducing Saturdays off, introducing pensions, introducing unemployment benefits and sickness benefits, and even free doctors, free dentists, and vitamin pills for staff."
Today, her family's revolutionary company has been bought out by one of the largest food companies in the world.
Perhaps Deborah Cadbury's measured disappointment explains the change best, "Somewhere along the way the 400-year-old English Puritanical ideal of self-denial and the Quaker vision of creating wholesome nourishment for a hungry and impoverished workforce have disappeared."