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here. To see
the movie about Cadbury's vast differences across continents, click
The British are in an uproar about
Kraft's recent bid of US$19.5bn to take over their beloved
fear their treasured English treats will be turned into
revolting American chocolate.
There's a lot British chocolate lovers
don't already know.
Cadbury has already been turned into 'revolting'
American chocolate in the United States; in Southeast Asia,
into bitter Malaysian chocolate;
and in Australia and
New Zealand, into sweet Australian chocolate.
Cadbury has local footholds in many of the countries
which constitute the former British Empire, places like
South Africa, India, Kenya; and even in countries which
weren't a part, like Morocco, Egypt, and Argentina.
The cacao beans may be imported from some equatorial
nation, but the milk, the sugar, the nuts, the fruits, and
any other artificial flavors and colors are sourced locally.
This go-local strategy differs markedly
from that of the American chocolate giant Hershey.
Up through my twenties, the famous
the same wherever you tried it, for the very simple reason
that Hershey products were only manufactured in Hershey,
The Hershey strategy has since changed, and now various
Hershey candies are manufactured in the People's Republic of
China for sale in other Asian countries.
The Chinese products taste nearly identical to their
I guess it's not hard to duplicate the flavor of
bland and bitter chocolate bars which only utilize 11% cocoa
solids, the lowest I've ever seen in a confectionary market
leader of an industrialized country.
were around in the US when I was growing up, but not popular.
In the 1970's, Cadbury products were put out in the
US by a company named Peter Paul, more famous for its Mounds
and Almond Joy candy bars than for handling the US
operations of Cadbury.
Cadbury only started to register in my mind as a
brand when I spent a year abroad in the UK in the late
resident in the UK who's not lactose intolerant will
eventually have his or her mouth intersect with a Cadbury
bar. My mouth conditioned from years of eating Hershey bars,
I found the creamier and subtler taste of the British Dairy
I didn't give Cadbury any more thought
until I went back to the United States and tried a Dairy
Milk there. It
had a completely different taste.
By that time, Cadburys in the US were made under
license by Hershey.
If I knew then what I know now, I'd have realized
there was no way the British and American versions could
taste the same.
There are 140 worldwide suppliers of cocoa beans and
derivative products such as cocoa butter and Hershey buys
from all of them.
With that many cacao beans floating about and with different food laws regulating
chocolate manufacturing, it'd be
almost impossible for Hershey to use the identical beans
prepared in the identical way in their version.
Two for the queen, four for the President
In 1994, I began a three-year trip that
took me through Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Africa, and
Many of these areas were former British colonies, and
being a chocolate lover, I kept encountering Cadbury bars
and trying them.
I was not a connoisseur of fine chocolate during
Hershey was still my crude benchmark.
I didn't sample a Cadbury in a new country and
mentally compare it to Cadburys consumed in previous
locales. For one, I
never really had the chance.
When visiting Egypt in January 1993, I bought the
local Cadbury bars. By the time I visited Malaysia in August
1994 and sampled a Cadbury there, I couldn't accurately
reflect on how the Malaysian bar differed from the Egyptian
one. Too much time had passed between the two tastings to be
objective. And two,
I accepted the default stance that one Cadbury bar tastes
much the same as any other, like a Big Mac does across
The American Cadbury might be the one exception since
it truly wasn't manufactured by Cadbury.
I was proven wrong.
In 1996, after having spent over a year in the Indian
subcontinent and consuming at least three small Cadbury bars
there per week, I flew to Kenya.
noticed that Cadbury bars there were available in the same
tiny sizes and purchased one the very day I landed.
I had become so acclimated to the Indian Cadburys
over my long stay that the new bar's differences stuck out.
The Kenyan bars were much richer, creamier, and
sophisticated in taste.
I only grasped how poor the Indian version was when
presented with something so superior while the Indian tastes
were still fresh in my mouth.
No other African Cadbury bar on my journey measured
up to the ones I devoured in Kenya.
Not the Zimbabwean bars made under license, which
And not the South African Cadburys.
Skip ahead over a decade to December
2008. I was
living in Thailand, snacking on what I deemed to be
acceptable Malaysian Cadbury chocolates.
Malaysia manufactures the Cadbury line for all of
A rare opportunity arose.
A friend from England was returning to Thailand.
I asked him to bring back a UK-made Dairy Milk bar.
Another friend was
returning to Thailand after an assignment in Kenya.
I begged him repeatedly to bring back a Kenyan
The chocolates all arrived in Thailand at
around the same time, and I conducted my first informal
Cadbury taste test.
By now I'd developed a chocolate palate.
After seeing a
wonderful chocolate exhibit in Chicago
ten years ago and noting how much work went into the growing
and processing of cacao beans, I took a newfound interest in
seeking out higher quality chocolates.
My first informal taste test involved Cadbury Dairy
Milks from Kenya, the UK, Malaysia, and Morocco.
The Moroccan bar was an unexpected find.
Inexplicably, one of the Dairy Milks my friend bought
in Kenya turned out to be made in Morocco.
None of the four tasted similar to any other.
The Malaysian-made bar scored the worst on every
test. My taste
buds had glossed over its rough edges when I ate the
Malaysian bars exclusively.
Compared side-by-side with other bars, the
inferiority of the Malaysian bar was obvious, just as the
Indian bar had been when juxtaposed with the Kenyan one in
Malaysian chocolate was chalky, gritty, and waxy.
A year on, I've had the chance to perform
a more diverse taste test.
I was expecting several international visitors for
the New Year, each from Cadbury-producing nations.
It took several months of organization, but I was
able to gather both Dairy Milks and Whole Nut/Roast
Almond bars from the USA, UK, Australia, and Malaysia.
Two weeks before the New Year's Eve tasting, I sent
off a hasty e-mail to a former work associate in India, and
he mailed me six Indian-made Cadburys.
By New Year's Eve 2009, five nation's Cadbury bars
were in my refrigerator's crisper, a total of over 2 kg of
chocolate packed into 20 different bars.
This multi-national Cadbury collection
might sound impressive to the casual reader, but let me
assure you that none of my tasters could have cared less.
My girlfriend hardly eats chocolate.
If Cadbury manufactured an elite edition made of only
the world's finest cocoas, she wouldn't be any more eager to
savor it than if contained rotten cacao beans from the
Spanish colonial era.
My brother shuttled over four USA Cadbury bars but
added the obvious:
he didn't give a hoot about the taste test.
My Australian friend carried six large Australian
bars over and clarified that he hardly ever ate chocolate.
A Canadian buddy came along for the taste ride, but
if we'd been comparing different brands of peanut butter, it
would have been all the same to him.
The collective indifference did surprise
me. How many
times do you have the opportunity to compare a brand across
its various territories?
Coca Cola is an even more ubiquitous brand than
Cadbury, available in two hundred countries and usually
The carbonation and sweetness vary by country.
Although I seldom drink Coca Cola anymore, I'd
eagerly compare Coca Cola cans from several countries
Back when I ate Big Macs, I would've loved to do
side-by-side taste comparisons of Big Macs from different
nations. I must be
unusual. No one was panting to be part of an
intercontinental chocolate tasting of a mid-level chocolate
The Cadbury taste test I administered was
The five different Dairy Milks and nut bars were
assigned a number from 1 to 5.
Only I knew the identity of each bar.
The nut version had an N appended to the number, so
if 1 corresponded to the Indian Dairy Milk, 1N was the
Indian Roast Almond. I
wanted my tasters to view the N bar as an extension of the
Dairy Milk version, to see if the added nuts improved the
I drew up a taste chart asking the tasters to rate
creaminess, sweetness, cocoa intensity, texture, and overall
flavor. I admit
it was overkill.
When we finally got around to this taste test, most
of us were drunk from a 12 bottle Thai beer tasting we'd
performed earlier in the day.
As most of my testers were more
interested in nose picking than Cadbury chocolate taste
testings, there was not a lot of preconceived biases, though
there were some.
Having been to both the UK and India, my brother had
high opinions of the UK bar and dreadful opinions of the
Interestingly, however, when he rated the bars from best to
worst, he assigned the Australian bar the top honors
(thinking it was the UK bar) and the Malaysian one the worst
(thinking it was the Indian bar).
Amazingly, among my five apathetic tasters, there
was some consensus:
and Australian bars ranked in the top two spots for
everyone, with more of the tasters agreeing that the UK bars
The UK had more of a floral taste, while the Australian one
Australia tried to substitute palm oil for cocoa butter in
their version in mid-2009, claiming this was what their
customers wanted, a PR spin
no one believed. Customers were disgusted, and
the company promised to return to their original recipe.
I'm assuming the Cadbury bars we sampled were made
with the cocoa butter.
Malaysian bar was unanimously panned as the worst of the
five, both Dairy Milk and nut versions.
I found the Malaysian bar more reprehensible than I
did on the previous taste tests. Its chalky, artificial, and
waxy taste was ever more apparent this time around when
sampled along with four other nation's bars.
Indian bars must have been revamped in taste since the mid
1990's, when my brother and I had been in India.
They were twice the size of what they used to be and
actually tasted like chocolate now.
I'm not implying that the Indians had turned their
version into the new Swiss chocolates of Asia.
The Indian bar still got rated second to worst.
Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachan has to be getting paid a
stackload of rupees for associating his image with this
American bar ranked in the middle.
The American nut version was a mockery of the name.
Magnifying glasses couldn't find an almond in this one,
whereas the other country versions, good or bad, contained
ample quantities. The American bars had the most
unusual taste of the five bars, and not in a good way, maybe
because the other four bars were made by real Cadbury
factories using some semblance of the original recipe.
The yawning tasters commented that the
Hershey-Cadbury bar was creamy and airy, but with a stale
flavor. In 2008,
Hershey began substituting vegetable oil for cocoa butter in
many of their chocolates in order to cut costs.
The removal of
cocoa butter violates the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration's definition of milk chocolate, so subtle
changes have appeared on the labels of Hershey products with
altered recipes. Products
once labeled "milk chocolate" now say "chocolate candy,"
"made with chocolate" or "chocolatey."
It's unlikely Hershey would've cheapened the Cadbury
name more than they already have by omitting the cocoa
But for a company used to putting less cocoa solids
in a chocolate bar than some boyfriends slather off their
girlfriends' stomachs with strawberries, it wouldn't
surprise me if Hershey were using minimal cocoa solid
content in their Cadbury version.
Every family has its rejects - Malaysia (left) and India
Kraft's purchase of Cadbury will probably
alter the taste of the British chocolate and eventually, all
of the chocolates under the Cadbury banner in whatever
countries they're made.
Mind you, Kraft really isn't the problem.
Cadbury has been cheapening their bars for years.
One avid British Cadbury eater comments in the
London Evening Standard of the richer, denser Dairy
Milks he consumed as a kid in 1956-57.
Some Cadbury-producing countries -- namely the ones
with no chocolate manufacturing tradition -- are further along
the cheapening curve than others, explaining much of the
great differences in taste between all these bars that are
sold under the same name. Australia
recently reduced the size of their bar from 250g to 200g,
without a change in price, using identically sized packaging
so that consumers wouldn't notice, then cheapened the
recipe with less cocoa solids.
Sluggish Kraft may be tempted to hasten their streamlining (i.e
factory closures, overseas manufacturing, recipe
Cadbury would have done this without the buyout.
They're already doing it!
So don't cry over Cadbury.
I and my tasters have already done so when sampling
some of the more undesirable bars.
This, my chocoholics, is
the world of cheapened corporate chocolate.
UPDATE (March 10):
More Cadburys from untested nations landed on my doorstep. These bars didn't get here
as smoothly. They were mailed via various national and international postal systems and finally
entered my abode as liquid melted chocolate before I confined them to the refrigerator for rehardening.
Bars from Australia, the United States, and Malaysia were retested, as former benchmarks, to see where
the new bars fell on the scale.
Our first entrant was a Cadbury Dairy Milk and a Fruit & Nut bar from Canada.
It tasted nothing like the American bars south of the border. Both the Canadian and American bars seemed to
source the same cocoa, but the Canadian bars had a richer aftertaste and melted smoothly on the tongue. The
girlfriend rated it above the Australian bars. I thought it was a toss up and ranked it lower, at #3. Inferior
to the Canadian treats but superior to the American ones were a Cadbury Dairy Milk and a Roast Almond bar from Argentina. These bars
contain traces of vanilla flavoring, making them taste different than all the other Cadbury bars I've tried. These bars were
sweet but not as sweet as the Australian bars and had a lighter cocoa taste. The Argentines obtained the #4 rank. The Americans
were demoted to #5, India to #6, and Malaysia to #7.
UPDATE (June 1):
Call me the prophet I am. In the original article, I wrote that "sluggish Kraft may be tempted to hasten their streamlining" through things
like factory closures. Cadbury Kenya seems to be a casualty. A friend revisited Kenya recently and looked for delicious Kenyan-made
Cadbury bars to take back with him. None were to be found. Kenya is now importing Cadbury bars made in the Middle East. The Middle East
should stick to oil and Kenya to chocolate.