Sunday, July 27, 2014

John Cadbury: The Sweet Legacy

John Cadbury
Besides Milton Hershey, there were already numerous chocolatiers that began manufacturing in Europe. The French, the Dutch, and the Swiss all had artisans dedicated to chocolate making. Royals from Spain and France had high regards and consumed chocolate in their respective courts. Eventually, the British soon joined the ranks of chocoholics in Europe. And one of the leading chocolatiers of the Industrial Age in Britain was the most recognizable as well, Cadbury, John Cadbury.

John Cadbury (1801 – 1889) was born into a business family in the rising industrial cities in Britain. John Cadbury was born to Richard and Elizabeth Cadbury. The family were part of the Society of Friends or Quakers. Their family owned a business specializing in linen. His family’s business background dictated his future. As part of his business studies, in 1816, he was sent to a tea dealer as an apprentice. Then in early 1820’s he was sent to London as an apprentice once again to a teahouse of Sanderson Fox & Company.

While he was in London, he was able to walk and take a look at center of imported goods brought by the British East India Company in the Mincing Lane. There, he was able to look inside the warehouses of the Company. One good that in particular interest Cadbury were cocoa beans or nib from South America. He saw the potential of the beans and began to form his business plan.

His own business materialized a year later, in 1824. On that year, he returned to his hometown of Birmingham. With a small money from his parents, he set up a shop besides his brother Benjamin’s draper shop. He set up a teahouse and a cocoa shop. He made use of every money that his parents gave him. He spend money for promoting his store by announcing via newspaper, Aris’ Birmingham Gazette, issue on March 1, 1824, that Cadbury Teas and Cocoa Shop was open. Customers who went to the shop were amazed of the ambiance and display it had. His shop began to use an open shop window where customers and even bystander could peaked inside the store and look at the displayed products in front. Inside the shop, it gave an oriental experience to customers. Boxes and vases came from China decorated the shop. Figurines with Asian style were also displayed. As a final touch, a Chinese worker helped to serve the customers.

His shop was a success. Cadbury’s timing was impeccable. Industrial Revolution in Britain was towards new heights. Birmingham was of its centers. Manufacturers flock the city and provided jobs to the populace. Thus, more workers meant more money to the people. And with money came spending to luxury. Chocolate was known as a rich man’s food. But with the rise of a working class, many had spare money to spend. And Cadbury managed to tap on it. In addition to the working class, Cadbury also continued to tap on the traditional wealthy customers of cocoa. He attracted customers from prominent Birmingham families like the Boultons, the family of Mathew Boulton who introduce a new steam engine along with another customer of Cadbury, the family of James Watt. Another cause of his success was the connections of their family to the Society of Friends or otherwise known as Quakers. The Quakers were famous for their business skills. And Cadbury used this connection to increase his sales to fellow well-off Quakers.

His shop’s success helped him to expand his business. In 1831, he decided to extend his knowledge and his business of cocoa and chocolate. He bought a 4 floor building in Crooked Lane. Here, he installed a steam engine which would power his new imported van Houten machine from the Netherlands. From this machine, Cadbury began to experiment for his recipe of his own milk chocolate.

Sales of his chocolate further increased as time passed by and new developments came. Further industrialization and extension of railroads allowed travel and money to spread across the country. Some of this money went to Cadbury’s company. High sales continued through the 1830’s

In the 1840’s, however, was a time of hardship for the United Kingdom. Failure of harvest caused widespread poverty. Importation of corn became an issue in the parliament to save victims of famines. With the economy in the downturn and the British people suffering the so-called Hungry Forties, people spent less to chocolate and more to staple foods.

As a response to the weaker sales, he began to diversify his products to attract more customer attention. He began to make different products from chocolate. It included products like Spanish Chocolate and Iceland Moss. He made these new products to make customers interested and buy his products.

The move was successful. So successful that it made it possible to expand his business further. In 1847, the new Great Western Railway was being constructed. The railroad, however, hit the Crooked Lane factory of Cadbury and had to be demolished. But Cadbury used the opportunity to establish a new bigger factory. He placed his new factory in Bridge Street. The new location was more accessible and more convenient for the distribution of products because the facility laid just beside the Birmingham Canal.

In order to facilitate more the growing business, he allowed his relatives to join him. In 1848, he and his brother, Benjamin formed the Cadbury Brother’s Company. Also, his sons, George and Richard, also started to become involved to the family business. In the 1850’s his two sons managed the London office. They helped the factory to attain a Royal Appointment from Queen Victoria. This allowed the company to place the royal seal to their packaging and increase the prestige of Cadbury.

The Royal appointment was followed by tragedy. John Cadbury’s wife, Candia, was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Cadbury enthusiasm to the business began to falter. And by the end of the decade, she died. It gave Cadbury a lasting effect. He lost all his vigor in running the business. His loss of vigor was reflected in the company, which saw huge decrease of sales and was tittering to bankruptcy. In 1860, he dissolved the partnership with his brother. On the following year, for the sake of the company, he passed the baton to his two sons, Richard and George. He officially retired.

His sons rejuvenated the company. By puritanically saving, they restored the finance of the country which was in a bad condition when they took charge. In 1866, they catapulted the company back when they introduced a new product – the cocoa essence. They also presided over the move to establish a model factory in Bournville in 1879.

Meanwhile, John spent the rest of his life in quiet retirement. He passed away in 1889. Leaving a legacy of sweetness that his sons continued and expanded to new heights and became household name throughout the world.

See also:
Conrad Van Houten
Milton Hershey
Rodolphe Lindt

Cadbury, D. Chocolate War: The 150-Year Rivalry Between the World's Greatest Chocolate Makers. New York: Public Affairs, 2010.  

Mokyr, J. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Economic History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. 

Morck, R. A History of Corporate Governance Around the World: From Family Business to Professional Managers. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.

Prinz, D. On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic Cacao. Vermont: Jewish Lights Publishing, 2013.

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