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Chocolate Wars: The 150-Year Rivalry Between the World's Greatest Chocolate Makers Hardcover – October 19, 2010

4.5 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

A descendant of the Cadbury family of chocolatiers, author Cadbury is also an award-winning documentary producer for the BBC and has seven other books to her credit. The history of chocolate, from its origins as an exotic Aztec beverage to the most prized confectionery in the world, is told here through the eyes of the British Quaker family that transformed a gritty, oily brew into one of the most sought-after delectable treats on the planet. In doing so, the Cadbury brothers turned their father’s humble and nearly bankrupt business into a globally dominant corporation in the span of two generations. The path to success was not easy, and Cadbury tells the story of fierce competition from names like Fry, Nestlé, Hershey, and Mars, as well as the Dutch and Swiss entrepreneurs who were so crucial in cracking the food chemistry of the cacao bean. Cadbury chronicles 150 years of chocolate wars that only heated up further into a global-merger competition, which saw the venerated Cadbury brand get swallowed up by the food giant Kraft in 2009. This tale of capitalist rivalry mixed with Quaker values makes for a very sweet journey. --David Siegfried


Booklist, October 1, 2010
“This tale of capitalist rivalry mixed with Quaker values makes for a very sweet journey.”

Washington Post
“This is a delicious book, seductive as a tray of bonbons, a Fancy Box in every way.”

The New Yorker Book Bench
“For chocolate lovers and Roald Dahl fans, some heartening news: Willy Wonka’s factory – or at least something that sounds very much like it – was a real place... Though Cadbury begins with teasingly enviable childhood recollections... the story she tells is really about Quakers, and one family’s continuous struggle to reconcile religious values – pacifism, austerity, sobriety – with the indulgent nature of their product and the ruthlessly competitive capitalism of the world in which they made their fortune... It’s hard not to root for these guys and the story is all the more bittersweet because we know how it ends.”

The Daily Telegraph
“Engaging and scholarly, confident and compassionate, Chocolate Wars is less a family biography than an impressively thought provoking parable for our times... A vibrant history.” 

Business Times
“Fascinating...Chocolate Wars presents narrative history at its most absorbing, peopled by colourful characters: the true story of the chocolate pioneers, the visions and ideals that inspired them and the mouth-watering concoctions they created... Deborah gives readers an insider look, fleshing out the stories around her family with her familiar competence as a bestselling historian and award winning documentary maker.”

 “A fine pocket history of corporate confectionery... Cadbury has a knack for capturing the driven personalities who launched these [chocolate] empires.” 

Library Journal
“Although written by proud Cadbury kin, the narrative is balanced and fair. This is a well written and well researched look at chocolate and the Quaker business tradition that any food or history buff will enjoy.”

Sunday Times
Chocolate Wars – clear, readable and richly detailed – is at least as much about Quakers as it is about chocolate... enjoyable.”

Financial Times, November 15, 2010
“Deborah Cadbury’s branch of the Cadbury family wasn’t involved in the chocolate business but she garnered a deep impression from a childhood visit to her cousins’ company and the reader of Chocolate Wars feels they are getting an insider’s view. Her own background as a historian and TV documentary maker means that this book communicates in an episodic and visual style, making what risks being a dull subject gripping as it flips back and forth around the world documenting parallel events in the emergence of the chocolate industry.”

Examiner.com, November 14, 2010
“The 150-year rivalry among the world’s greatest chocolate making families, is told by a descendant of one of the families. Just think what sweetness came out of these families' rivalries, depicted deliciously in this new book.”
Boston Globe, November 14, 2010
“Deborah Cadbury begins with a brief description of Quaker aims and humane business practices before moving on through the history of the family business. This takes in the truly exciting race to put Cadbury’s chocolate candy in every mouth, to the exclusion of that made by rival English Quaker firms, Rowntree and Fry, to say nothing of the Swiss Lindt and Nestlé. Her many faceted account takes in technology, distribution, and industrial espionage, advertising and packaging, labor relations and model housing for workers, the role of the firm and its owners in wartime and international expansion.”
Gulfnews.com, November 26, 2010
“Engaging and scholarly, Chocolate Wars is less a family biography than an impressively thought-provoking parable for our times.”
Los Angeles Times, November 28, 2010
“Fascinating…Read this excellent book.”
Philadelphia Inquirer, November 28, 2010
“The inside story of the 150-year rivalry among Cadbury, Hershey, Nestlé, and Mars is a fascinating and luscious tale. Deborah Cadbury, great-great-great-granddaughter of 19th-century chocolate maker John Cadbury, tells it eloquently in Chocolate Wars, drawing the reader into her epic of family and industry with clear love for her subject.”

Christian Science Monitor, December 1, 2010
“[Chocolate Wars] pits idealism against capitalism, religious piety against the forces of greed and cutthroat competition. Though, like great fiction, it defies belief, it’s the true story of our favorite guilty pleasure. Cadbury’s book, like her namesake’s famous sampler, is full of surprises and delights.”

Bnreview.com, December 2010
“This engaging history of the 150-year rivalry among the world's greatest chocolate makers—the English firms Fry, Rowntree, and Cadbury (to which the author, Deborah Cadbury, is an heiress), their European competitors Lindt and Nestlé, and the American upstarts Hershey and Mars—is delightful, especially for its fascinating portrait of the 19th-century success of Quaker capitalism, built quite remuneratively on the ideal that wealth creation entails responsibilities beyond personal gain.”

KREL (Florida talk radio) “The Happy Cook”
“An eye-opening, illuminating book that features a cast of brilliant entrepreneurs…the story gripped me from start to finish.”


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1st Printing edition (October 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586488201
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586488208
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #693,568 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As a lover of chocolate, I was instantly drawn into this book. This is the story of an English family (the Cadbury's) who strove to reconcile their religion with their growing business. Although Quakerism is discussed in the book, I strongly disagree with the previous reviewer that the book has too much information on the Cadbury's religion. Due to their beliefs, the Cadbury's were left with few options for a vocation in Victorian England. However, in spite of these barriers, they were still able to excel. To understand the Cadbury family you must understand their influences, and Quakerism was certainly a strong force in their life.

In writing this book, Deborah Cadbury seeks to tell the story of both her family's famous chocolate brand, and the rise of a global economy. While there is a fair amount of discussion about Quakerism in the book, this seems to stem from two reasons:

1) To understand the Cadbury's, their competitors, and their business decisions, one needs to understand the world they lived in, including their religion, and

2) Most people who read this book probably won't know much about Quakerism (much less 19th century Quakerism), and so some level of detail is needed.

As Ms. Cadbury points out, "Richard and George Cadbury's entire worldview was shaped by Quaker values." This affected such decisions as advertising (strongly discouraged), sources of cocoa (and the use of slaves), the development of a charitable trust, and key decisions that came about as a result of Quaker pacifism during World War I. Quakerism even had a role on American chocolate maker Milton Hershey. Although not a Quaker himself, he was influenced by the large Quaker presence surrounding his candy shop in Philadelphia.

Overall, I found this book a fascinating story of a family business that grew into a worldwide empire.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is Deborah Cadbury of THE Cadbury family.  She writes about Cadbury, Hershey, Nestle, and  other companies and the development of chocolate as a food product.  It begins with people wondering what to do with this bean to make money with it.  It includes information about developing these products, finding the cocoa beans, growing the beans in new locales around the world, marketing to different cultures i.e. convincing people they need it and on and on and is fascinating.  For me the most interesting part however, was about the business models used.  I learned how a business can grow from that one individual businessman with decent morals, to an international corporation willing to use slave labor for a buck.  Is it grow or die or are their alternatives?  My favorite quotation:

"The problem with the way we have developed our system of shareholder capitalism is that the shareholder is being divorced from his role in ownership," explains Sir Dominic Cadbury, the last family chairman.

Cadbury and a few other chocolate makers were practicing Quakers and wanted to use their business in service of their faith.  Some of their guiding beliefs for business are:

Keep your word.
Do not go into debt or bankruptcy.
Watch over other Quaker businesses and advise their owners when they appear to be in trouble or making poor or unethical 
decisions, and take influence from them yourself.
As the Industrial Revolution built momentum, they were warned against paper credit and that warning was added to their written guidelines.
Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this as a gift, having read it before. The history of chocolate and how it starts out as a drink and on to the common use as candy was very interesting. I found the Cadbury family's story (Quakers) and their focus on ethical treatment of those growers abroad most admirable. Just wish more companies today showed such compassion for better treatment of workers abroad.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the fascinating story of the Quaker families behind the great British confectionary brands, Rowntree, Fry, and, of course, Cadbury, whose legacy is not just famous chocolate brands, but the model garden villages of Bournville and New Earswick, and an array of worthy charitable endeavours. The book also tells of the domestic and international marketplace battles with the Swiss and American giants, Nestle, Mars, Hershey etc., whose founding stories and colourful characters are also vividly described. It culminates with the story of the 2010 Kraft takeover of Cadbury, and raises a number of thought provoking questions about business culture, corporation law, the role of hedge funds in corporate takeovers, the benefits and challenges of globalisation, ownership and stewardship, and short term and sustainable value to shareholders and wider business stakeholders. Deborah Cadbury makes a subtle and often implicit case for a better way of doing business, without becoming overly didactic, and the tales of her forebears are always interesting and often inspiring.

One cautionary note: the book may leave you craving a Flake, Curly Wurly, or Fry's Chocolate Cream, which may be frustrating if residing in a clime where such staples of civilised life are not readily available. Thankfully, however, it seems these can be ordered via Amazon.
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