Books on Chocolate – Strategy, Competition, Family and the Dark Side

English: "Drink Cadbury's Cocoa" adv...

Here are some books on chocolate I read and I like and recommend all of them. Two of the books are about Cadbury, a brand that is now part of Kraft.

  1. Business Strategy  — Cadbury’s Purple Reign: I was very impressed by this book and its dissection of how business decisions on product strategy, segmentation, positioning and sales enablement was done in the early years of Cadbury’s. I could not help but wonder how much of that was revisionist history, how much of that is my own biases in reading more into it than there is and real business history.
    Nevertheless, the book backed up its stories with news clips and quotes from sales meetings that add to its credibility. One notable brave business decision that caught my mind is Cadbury’s decision to give up its old product versions when they switched to pure 100% cocoa.
    Another one was their decision to switch direction again when the competitors were caught up with 100% purity and the customers demanded more than just 100% purity.
  2. Competition — The Emperor’s of Chocolate: This is a history of the battle between the two chocolate giants of America – Mars and Hershey’s. When reading the closed culture of Mars and the business idiosyncrasies of both brands I can see parallel to many present day tech brands.
    One thing that caught my mind was,  going to market  with highest quality and full featured product is not as important as having a good enough product but a superb control over messaging and positioning.
  3. FamilyChocolate Wars : Don’t be thrown off by title or the sub-title. This books is very much about the Cadbury family, their values, morals, struggles, ups- and downs. The author is more effective when she covers these aspects than the business aspects. She is also the author The Lost Prince (and says in that book Marie Antoinette never said, “Let them eat cake”). I enjoyed reading the personal side of the business folks who appear larger than life in The Purple Reign. Read the chapter that talks about Cadbury’s first store design and experience – you will find where Apple Stores got their inspiration.
  4. The Dark Side — Bitter Chocolate: This is the dark side of the romantic story, the backoffice story that never gets told until an author like Carol Off takes the time to travel to the cocoa producing countries and write about the state of the cocoa farmers. I was surprised to hear that the poor families that worked on cocoa farmers did not know the use of cocoa beans or what chocolate was.
    This calls into question my own beliefs about, “Business of business is business and not social responsibility”.  While cost is irrelevant to pricing, ignoring externalities artificially reduces the cost to marketers and enables them to sell the product at much lower prices than they would.

I am a big  fan of 85% and above cocoa, so next time you see me remember that.