Letter from America – Everyone’s a Fruit & Nutcase

Letter from America – Everyone’s a Fruit & Nutcase
Image: Reuters/Phil Noble

We have been stateside for 6 months and our daily needs are more than catered for, but, if pushed, Cadbury’s chocolate is at the top of the miss-list.

Easter is almost upon us and, for our family, it’s the Cadbury-holiday; Crème eggs, Cadbury’s mini eggs, the heavenly taste of Easter egg shell straight from the fridge. My mouth waters at the thought. The hunt is on. San Diego is a highly sophisticated consumer space and we have already sourced HP sauce and Marmite (love it or hate it), so Cadbury won’t be hard to find.


We grab a large Dairy Milk (naturally), Fruit & Nut, a few Cadbury Flakes – family movie night is complete with quality “scran” (sweet treats) as we call it. Or so we thought. The first square, yes! The initial taste definitely has our buds back in the sweet zone, but mmmm aftertaste is, well slightly bitter. Could just be that I need another square. Eh no, the second leaves a distinctive aftertaste that is not pleasant. I look around at the Robertson expressions – we are not amused!

The packaging is investigated. The trade mark has travelled the Atlantic in perfect condition, the distinctive purple pantone colour is the same – but what of the recipe? Closer inspection finds the term, ‘Under license from Cadbury UK Ltd.’ The IP-nerd in me takes over. If the production of the chocolate is legally protected under licence, then why would the trade secret not be shared to ensure the Cadbury’s chocolate, manufactured under licence, tastes the same? Or maybe we will need to source an importer of UK-made Cadbury instead? Strikeout on both counts.

The recipe used for UK-made and US-made chocolate is different; EU and UK allow up to 5% non-cocoa vegetable fats to be blended with the crumb, along with cocoa butter. The US does not. So in fact the product, I guess, cannot be replicated under a local manufacturing licence. Thanks goes to Elle Metz of the BBC who covered this in 2015. Mary Hanbury at Business Insider, who provided detailed analysis of the taste issue in her article of June 2018.

Hershey’s purchased the rights to produce Cadbury chocolate in 1988 for $300m which stops anyone else supplying the product in the US. I mull over the price and consider what the deal offers both parties. A licence deal with a confectionery giant like Hershey no doubt improved Cadbury’s perceived global reach and strengthened the brand in the process. But if Cadbury had intended this licence deal to provide them with access to the enormous market in the US, then there is now a spanner in the works. In 2015, Hershey announced that UK-made Cadbury imports were breaching the terms of their licence agreement. The Cadbury enthusiasts claimed Hershey had banned UK Cadbury chocolate from the US. Hershey, of course, don’t have the legal authority to ban an imported good but flexing their muscles was in effect all they had to do. The power of well-protected IP!

Hats off to Hershey who have shown the power that comes from enforcing a licence deal – their win is our (Robertson family) loss and so the big chocolate hunt continues!