The Kraft-Cadbury Deal: how ethical can a Quaker be?

By Anna Carolina Lessa
Staff Editor
January 31, 2010

This week, after months of endless negotiations and protests, shareholders to the 186-year old British chocolate maker Cadbury are close to approving the $19 billion offer by U.S.-giant Kraft foods.

Accepting this deal is an impressive turnaround for the Cadbury board, especially after months of raucous opposition, from British politicians to chocolate lovers from all over the United Kingdom. However, this deal is not emblematic simply because of the value of the offer or the fact that the Kraft-Cadbury combo would represent more than 40 confectionary brands, each with annual sales of more than $100 million – placing them side-by-side with the number one candy-maker, Mars. If the Cadbury deal is approved, the corporation would join an ever-growing list of British brands lost to foreigners. In 2008, Tata Motors, part of the fast-growing Tata Group of India, bought Jaguar and Land Rover, adding to their diverse portfolio, from coffee companies to steel manufacturers.

Cadbury was created in 1824 by John Cadbury, a Quaker from Birmingham who began selling tea, coffee, and cocoa beverages as an alternative to alcohol. Since its creation, Cadbury has become deeply embedded in British life, and according to some Brits, this deal represents an end to these Quaker ties – the small, oppressed group of religious radicals, founders of world-renowned multinationals such as Reckitt Benckiser, Barclays and Lloyds Banking Group. That view might help explain London Mayor Boris Johnson’s harsh comments regarding the deal. In a piece to the Daily Telegraph, Mr. Johnson said that the British “face an appalling choice of succumbing either to Kraft, makers of the plastic flaps of orange cheese, or to Hershey, whose Hershey bars have been likened in flavor – by independent experts – to a mixture of soap powder and baby vomit.”

The possible sale of Cadbury has created patriotic distress in Britain. Most critics argue that the brand would lose its social essence and vision, based on Quaker principles. However, capitalism seems to have been closely woven into Cadbury chocolate since the family business morphed into a multinational company, led by executives who have cut thousands of jobs in order to reduce costs. Even though the company has social initiatives, such as fairly sourcing suppliers from developing countries, their ultimate goal at the end of the day is still to make more money – just like their probable buyers, Kraft.

So, is the $19 billion offer too sweet to turn down, or will Cadbury’s values prevail at the end of the day?

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