To hear about the takeover of Cadbury’s by Kraft Foods is making many of us Brits deeply sad. The loss of another iconic British company to a foreign one is painful. It is the inevitable consequence of untrammelled capitalism, where the greed interests of the shareholders come first. As the BBC reports, the deal is a formality due to the large majority of institutional investors. It all seems to be a crude way for Kraft to spend to get out of debt – something that’s been fashionable in government circles these last couple of years.
The BBC report to which I linked above contains this paragraph:
Business Secretary Peter Mandelson said Kraft’s chairman and chief executive Irene Rosenfeld had already written to him to assure him of Kraft’s “respect for Cadbury’s heritage and employees”.
Well, of course we’re all reassured by Peter Mandelson, aren’t we?
But maybe it’s time to mourn the fact that the Cadbury’s heritage was long ago killed off by unrestrained capitalism, even if there was a glimmer of the old Cadbury’s recently when their famous Dairy Milk bar went Fairtrade. In its origins, the business was Christian, founded by the nineteenth century Quaker John Cadbury, who opened a shop selling tea, coffee and hot chocolate as alternatives to alcohol.
It reminded me of the sermon illustration I once heard – I think it was Brian Hoare who told it – which went something like this. A major department store in Birmingham wanted to expand their premises, but to do so they needed to purchase the adjacent Quaker meeting house. They sent a letter to the trustees saying they wished to purchase their property. ‘Name your price,’ they said, ‘and we will write you a cheque.’
To their surprise they received a reply along the following lines. ‘We too have major plans for expansion and would like to purchase your store. Name your price and we will write you a cheque.’
The management of the department store rolled around laughing when they read it – until they noticed the signature at the bottom. ‘J Cadbury’.
If only he had still been around to write like that to Kraft.
I’ve just returned from Dunedin, NZ, and briefly visited the Cadbury’s chocolate factory there, as I am a true choc devotee. It certainly is one of the large employers in that city and sad to hear it’s being gobbled up byKraft. Dunedin, by the way, retains a lot of its Scots heritage, very interesting city.
There are comments from some Christians here in the UK contrasting on the one hand Cadbury’s Christian roots and its recent decision to go Fairtrade with on the other hand issues about where Kraft gets it sources. Ethicpreneur had a piece on this a day or two ago, for example.
Yes, Dave, I agree that as Christians the high moral ground is the position for us but for employees needing to keep a job the high moral ground is a cold place to be. I am a regular letter writer to Sydney Morning Herald and find Christians only come out of the woodwork on some matters of doctrine – my experience anyway.
Yes Pam, but I think the high moral ground here would involve the keeping of jobs rather than the large redundancies being mooted at Cadbury’s to service the Kraft debt.
In this country at least, letters to the press from Christians aren’t generally confined to doctrinal issues usually. Maybe that’s a positive side effect of having a state church, I don’t know. Probably there’s more to it than that.