Thursday, September 17, 2009

Chocolate Wars Part I

Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate...

I follow the business of chocolate like some follow the travails and triumphs of Manchester United. It all began a few years ago when I was waxing poetic on the joys of Ghiradelli chocolate as one of my favorite brands to friends. Later, I mentioned that one of my least favorites was Lindt. I felt positively cheated on when one of them pointed out that Lindt actually owns Ghiradelli! As heartbroken as a jilted lover I researched this and found it to be true. They had sold me out! Yet, like a Montague happily dining with Capulets I will not give her up until the taste is degraded.

The candy aisles at Cardullo's, Cambridge

My interest was piqued again last week when the New York Times reported the sweet (pardon the pun) deal that Kraft Foods was making in an effort to buy out the Brit brand Cadbury. The U. K. chocolatiers did their due diligence and declined the romance which analysts predict will soon result in more hostile overtures. Even Wall Street and high finance are affected by food, you see. Putting on my reporter's fedora, I investigated a few other brands to prove they are not quite what they seem.

Chopped chocolate for cocoa.

It was once reported that Jackie Onassis was fond of nibbling Godiva chocolates, sold to American consumers as a high end Belgian brand. As it turns out they were until recently owned by Campbell's Soup! The brand was sold to Yildiz, a Turkish food company not long ago. Oh, and Haagen-Dazs (a made-up name)which was also sold as a European luxury brand is owned by Nestle, which many Americans believe is a U.S.A brand but it is not. It's actually a Swiss brand with a violent takeover history of its own. Other surprises include Dagoba and Scharffen-Berger, both owned by Hershey (very surprising) and the Dove brand, owned by M&M/Mars (not that anyone cares).

Snickers Bar by Mars

The Mars brand, however, is the one, true chocolate dynasty left in the world today. With billions of dollars in annual sales the company is still a privately held family business. Begun by the publicity shy Frank C. Mars of Minneapolis in 1920, the small operation has grown to an international kingdom of chocolate, candy, sweets and gum sold all over the world. Their last famous acquisition was the notoriously independent, also family owned, Wrigley gum dynasty of Chicago. Now that's a story we'd love to write.

Harbor Candy Shop, Ogunquit, Maine

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