MAY IT PLEASE THE PALATE: Chocolate Wars

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Chocolate lovers are calling to #boycottHershey after the U.S. candy giant resolved a lawsuit against the importers of British-made confections. No longer will “Let’s Buy British” (LBB Imports) be allowed to ship Cadbury chocolate overseas. This includes Cadbury Dairy Milk bars and beloved Easter treats Cadbury Cream Eggs.

Hershey’s has alleged that these sales infringed on its license to sell products in America under the Cadbury name. The problem, according to critics, is that the U.S. product is inferior. The Guardian quoted consumers likening Hershey’s chocolate to “stinky feet” and “plastic.” New York tea shop “Tea & Sympathy” has begun a Facebook petition to boycott Hershey’s. They write:

“Due to legal action by the so called chocolate maker Hershey’s, we can no longer import the real Cadbury chocolate from England. They want us to sell their dreadful Cadbury approximation but we can’t in good conscience sell you such awful chocolate when we have made our reputation on selling you the yummy real English stuff.”

Is it indeed better? U.S. law requires only 10% cacao to 20% in Europe, and the first ingredient listed on a U.S. bar is sugar. In contrast, as noted by the U.K.’s Daily Mail, “On a British bar of Dairy Milk, the first ingredient listed is milk, followed by sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter and vegetable fat. Cadbury’s famous slogan ‘a glass and a half of full cream milk in every half pound’ holds as true now as it did when the bar first went on sale in the UK in 1905.” The article further commented that the difference in ingredients may be attributed to European chocolate being targeted to adults, while American products are aimed at kids.

The lawsuit settlement gets worse. As reported by the New York Times, the lawsuit settlement affects more than Cadbury; it requires LBB to “halt imports on KitKat bars made in Britain; Toffee Crisps, which, because of their orange packaging, and yellow-lined brown script, too closely resemble Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups; [and] Yorkie chocolate bars, which infringe on the York peppermint patty.”

Will the boycott movement gain steam? The Twitter-verse is exploding. Even my own modest tweet (#boycotthershey for bullying Cadbury and bad chocolate in general”) was retweeted and favorited, the first time that has ever happened to me, which has caused me to contemplate quitting my day job and becoming a full-time Twitterist (follow me @nickroumel).

Culinary history is rife with consumers up in arms over something or other; most times the targeted company has been able to weather the fuss until people become distracted by the next big news. Political movements excepted: The Washington Post recalled that in the early 1970s, a nationwide boycott of table grapes “ultimately brought growers to the bargaining table” after a five-year strike by the United Farm Workers.  Whether chocolate lovers will succeed on this level is doubtful. Despite well-meaning calls to #boycotthershey, it is expected that office candy dishes will continue to overflow with Kisses, and Hershey bars will fly off the shelves in the summer, along with Graham crackers and marshmallows. Although, as one consumer sniffed to the Guardian, Hershey’s is “the only chocolate we would consider using for making s’mores at camp fires because you wouldn’t use good chocolate for that.”
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Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil rights litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor. He occasionally updates his blog at http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com/.

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