The documentary, Secrets Of The Chocolate Factory: Inside Cadbury, pretty much does what it says on the tin, lifting the lid on the 195-year-old company to reveal what goes on inside. It’s a tale of corporate resilience, of experimental magic and of delicious chocolate, of course.
As a primer, we decided to get to the bottom of the many rumours, urban legends and tall tales that surround the company, and see which ones are true and which ones are… less so.
1. Every block contains a glass and a half of full cream milk
It’s a slogan that was introduced 91 years ago, and it’s become as iconic to the chocolate empire as the company’s signature purple. But while many chocoholics took it for granted that this claim was true – indeed, many have probably sworn by it as a way to get their daily dairy fix – the slogan was dropped from bars in European markets in 2010 when EU regulators ordered all weights and measurements on food packaging to use the metric system. It would seem a glass and a half was a little too vague for their liking.
Moreover, the “glass and a half” claim was originally used for their half-pound block (227gm) and as the company had sold 200gm blocks since at least 1990, the measurements were slightly misleading.
The packaging now reads: “The equivalent of 426ml of fresh liquid milk in every 227g of milk chocolate.” Catchy, right?
Even the company spokesperson thought the archaic slogan was a bit much, stating: “It was a bit ridiculous to have it there, as we don’t sell half pound bars any more.” The Trading Standards Institute, however, disagreed, saying at the time: “The Cadbury slogan is well known by consumers and should not be confused or caught up with food labelling laws.”
Australia remains closer to the original, with blocks of Cadbury Dairy Milk still proudly declaring they contain the equivalent of a glass and a half of full cream dairy milk in every 200gm, and the glass and a half symbol also still a key part of the label.
2. Employees at the factories get all the chocolate they can eat – but they soon overdo it and stop eating it at all
We’ve all heard this particular legend, and it seems maniacal: a chocolatey version of “be careful what you wish for.”
In 2005, Guardian reporter Tanya Gold visited the world’s largest Cadbury factory in Bournville, UK, a veritable Wonka-esque heaven where, at the time, three thousand employees made three billion blocks of chocolate each year, the mathematics of which seems suspiciously divisible. She was ostensibly there to promote the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory film, but instead stumbled across the answer to this old-age question, via tour guide Tony.
Basically, workers can eat as much as they like, but cannot take it home.
“They can eat it off the line”, he explains, which makes sense. It seems the self-regulation of early gluttony is true, too.
“On their first day employees think they are in heaven and eat lots,” Tony explains. “On the second day they eat none at all. By the third day they will have found their level.”
So, there you have it. As with most things in life, moderation is key. The thought of those kids whose parents work at Cadbury factories but cannot take any treats home is a little depressing though, isn’t it?
3. Cadbury removed the word ‘Easter’ from all their products recently
‘It’s political correctness gone mad!’, the people cried. In 2016, a number of breathless reports stated that Cadbury (and indeed, their rival Nestle), had removed the word ‘Easter’ from all their seasonal egg-shaped treats, including changing their Easter Egg Trail Pack to a Dairy Milk Egg Hunt. The reason: religious sensitivity.
While it’s true the company had removed the word from some products, most of their Easter stock still clearly had the word ‘Easter’ splashed over it, and the company denied that offending other religions played a part in their marketing decisions.
A deliciously snarky spokesperson for the company told The Independent: “We don’t feel the need to tell people this – it is very obvious through the packaging that it is an Easter egg.” So there!
4. Cadbury have copyrighted their particular shade of purple, and sued others who have used it
If you’ve seen the Mary Kay cosmetics vehicles that buzz around the city, or the RPA building in Sydney, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Cadbury could a legal case against these two entities on the colour front, or many more to boot (maybe even the late great Prince), especially if you believe the long-held urban legend that they have trademarked their distinctive shade of purple and are quite litigious. So, do they own the shade?
Well, yes and no.
Cadbury has used the shade Pantone 2685C since 1905, and were actually able to trademark this particular shade in 1995, although the trademark only stretched to chocolate packaging “in bar or tablet form”.
As the ruling stated: “The mark consists of the colour purple (Pantone 2685C) as shown on the form of the application, applied to the whole visible surface, or being the predominant colour applied to the whole visible surface, of the packaging of the goods.”
As you may have surmised, this doesn’t cover other chocolate-y treats, such as Easter eggs, nor does it cover billboards or any other advertising material. In 2004, they attempted to extend this copyright to cakes, eggs, drinking chocolate and other products they manufactured. Nestle attempted to block this, claiming purple was not distinct enough to exclusively apply to a large range of goods.
The court ruled in Nestle’s favour, citing the wording “being the predominant colour” as too vague. Given this wording was also in Cadbury’s original 1995 copyright, this ruling brought the legitimacy of their original trademark in doubt, opening the door for other chocolate manufacturers to use the same shade of purple on chocolate bars, thus using Cadbury’s 114-year association with the colour to sell non-Cadbury products.
Cadbury unsuccessfully attempted to change the nature of the original trademark to clear this wording up, and as of the end of last year, the battle still raged on in court. The lesson: all that’s purple may not be Cadbury. Or something.
5. Roald Dahl took part in blind taste-tests for Cadbury as a kid, which inspired Charlie and The Chocolate Factory
This one is true, and we love it. When Dahl was a student at private school Repton in Derbyshire, the nearby Cadbury factory used the schoolkids as taste-testers for their latest ranges. The students were given twelve different bars wrapped in plain packaging, and were asked to rank them. Such a job would have been a joy for any young student, but Dahl’s imagination began to soar as he tasted these experimental flavour combinations and realised the factory must have “an inventing room, a secret place where fully grown men and women in white overalls spent all their time playing around with sticky, boiling messes, sugar and chocs, and mixing them up and trying to invent something new and fantastic”.
Dahl released Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in 1964, and by 1971 there was a real-life range of Wonka bars – sold by Cadbury’s rival Nestle. Ah well...
6. A disgruntled Cadbury employee contaminated vats of chocolate with AIDS
This is perhaps the most pernicious, ridiculous and sadly, long-lasting of the Cadbury rumours, one that whirled around for decades, until the public’s understanding of HIV reached a sensible level. Or did it?
The rumour popped up again last year, this time in the form of a meme containing a photo of a man being arrested for adding “his infected blood to Cadbury products”, citing BBC News as breaking the story. This exact meme, complete with the same photo, was in circulation earlier the same year with ‘Pepsi’ subbed out for Cadbury. This dude gets around!
Although it should be obvious, it bears repeating that – as myth-busters Snopes point out – “The CDC says except under laboratory conditions, HIV is unable to reproduce outside its living host; it does not spread or maintain infectiousness outside its host. Therefore, were HIV-tainted blood to be mixed into foodstuffs or beverages, the virus would neither survive nor while it was still viable multiply and so replenish itself.”
Secrets Of The Chocolate Factory: Inside Cadbury airs on Wednesday, 20 February at 8.35pm on SBS.