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The press has been having a feeding frenzy in its following of the saga of the take-over bids for Cadbury's chocolate. Cadbury is an old British company with a strong ethical code based on its Quaker roots and "principled capitalism". It was the first cocoa company to go completely Fairtrade and now it is such a success that it is the target of take-over bids from a number of companies including Kraft.
Cadbury's CEO Todd Stitzer is urging shareholders to hold tight and go for sustainability. He believes that the company's strong ethical code is of significant value to both investors and consumers. He said: "We are a unique company with a unique culture and there is a value aspect to keeping that intact in a thoughtful way." .But it is all up to the shareholders, who naturally want the most money for their shares.
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Cadbury has a history of 185 years as an independent business. With great disdain, Cadbury's great grand daughter has called the bidder Kraft "plastic cheese."
Italy's Ferrero along with Hershey is another possible bidder for the company. With its history of paternalism towards employees and the charities that it supports, its ethos may be more in keeping with the Cadbury philosophy. As Stitzer said:"There are clear similarities between the Cadbury culture and Hershey. Both were founded by men of vision and principles."
Image from Guardian: Todd Stitzer, CEO Cadbury
But in the end he is hoping that "someone of a consistent culture offering compelling value [to shareholders] is a better solution than someone offering compelling value and an inconsistent culture." Unfortunately there is no offer from Hershey on the table, whilst Kraft has put in a hostile bid of $10 bn.
Support for Cadbury's ethical stance and Fairtrade chocolate is showing itself in sales. Cadbury has sold 40 million Fairtrade Dairy Milk bars since its switchover in July. The company recently won the Community & Environmental Responsibility award at Management Today's awards for Britain's most admired companies.
As the papers says, "crunchie time is approaching" and Cadbury's "gagged" on Kraft's bid. We often question "when is a sell out a sell out" and this battle is one to watch in response to that philosophical dilemma.