“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” ― Charles M. Schulz (creator of Peanuts and Charlie Brown comic strip)
“Anything is good if it’s made of chocolate.” ― Jo Brand (British comedian)
It’s nearly Easter and in the UK, millions of people will be eating the famous Cadbury creme egg. Viewed by many as a delicious chocolate egg with a fondant centre resembling the inside of a real egg, for others (including me!) it’s a sickly-sweet horror. I think I’ve been spoilt by French chocolate for too long now! But whether you like it or not, the creme egg is an iconic part of Easter in the UK. It’s on sale only between Christmas and Easter and during this period, it’s manufactured, in Birmingham, at a rate of 1.5 million every day. Annual sales are in excess of 200 million and the brand value is £55 million! It is ranked as the most famous confectionary in the UK. No mean feat for such a little egg!
The creme egg is made by Cadbury, a British chocolate manufacturing company that began life in Birmingham, UK, in 1824 as a small shop selling tea and coffee. When chocolate started arriving in Europe from Latin America, it was drunk as a stimulant, like tea and coffee. John Cadbury began to sell blocks of drinking chocolate which could be mixed with hot water and drunk as “a most nutritious beverage for breakfast”. Business grew and by 1831 he was renting a factory to produce his chocolate and in 1854, he became chocolate manufacturer to Queen Victoria.
John Cadbury’s sons continued the business, acquiring the revolutionary Van Houten chocolate press after a trip to Holland which allowed their chocolate to be purer than other British producers. They then introduced chocolate bars which could be eaten rather than drunk and chocolate cremes with fruit centres, sold in decorative boxes. Cadbury was bringing chocolate to the people and this approach allowed them to beak the monopoly that the French had had up until then. In 1897 experiments were made by adding milk to the chocolate and this marked the beginning of the British trend for preferring milk chocolate.
The Cadbury family were Quakers and their strong moral principles guided them in the development of the company. The family was concerned with poverty in the British Victorian cities so, in 1878, they moved the factory into the countryside and created a “garden city” around the factory. They built good quality houses with gardens, for the workers to buy, together with sports and medical facilities to promote the health of the workers (a revolutionary idea at the time). They introduced bonuses, a half-day Saturday holiday and they pioneered the idea of closing the factory on bank holidays.
Today, the employees continue to benefit from the schemes put in place all those years ago. International cricket matches are even held on the factory cricket ground! And as chocolate making has become a global business, Cadbury is committed to ensuring that human rights are respected in all of its cocoa farms and factories. And in Ghana, where most of their chocolate comes from, Cadbury funds projects to bring clean drinking water to the farmers and their families.
Luckily for me, Cadbury doesn’t only make creme eggs! So, you can rest assured that I will be tucking into a delicious Cadbury chocolate bar or two over the next few days, as soon as I can find a shop that sells them here in France! That may not be so easy….
Philippa Stacey a fondé Eureka en 2007. Elle vit et enseigne l’anglais aux professionnels en France depuis 1993.