“Death by chocolate”

So ran the title of Andrew Martin’s piece for The Guardian of 21 January 2010, responding to news of “the ­capitulation of the Cadbury board to Kraft”:

“…I remember a friend of my Dad’s who was an engineer in the Smarties department telling me that the production process was closely ­analogous to that for buttons, and not chocolate ones, either…

…the Rowntrees were good guys. Joseph Rowntree II installed a female welfare worker in the York factory in 1891. At the turn of the century he established sick and provident funds, along with a ­pension and savings scheme and a doctor’s surgery. His son, Seebohm Rowntree, wrote Poverty: A Study of Town Life, which in 1908 coined the term “poverty line” and agonised about those below it. Seebohm seems to have left much of the actual chocolate side of things to George ­Harris, a veritable northern Willie Wonka, who in one inspired year (1935) invented both the Aero bar and KitKat biscuit.

As a boy, if I saw somebody eating a KitKat in, say, Manchester, I would feel a surge of pride in my home city. Maybe my grandfather had had a hand in that particular KitKat – perhaps ­literally. The same went for seeing someone eat a Chocolate Orange, because York also accommodated Terry’s chocolate ­factory. The Terrys were not Quakers, and were not philanthropists on the Rowntree scale, but they were good sorts in a Tory paternalist sort of way. Their neo-Georgian factory was a popular place to work, and positively pretty to look at. At night the clock shone, moon-like, over the south of the city, with letters spelling “Terry’s of York” in place of the numerals. Terry’s established a cafe in the centre of town, where ladies in hats had a jolly time, and a notice told of how, in the New World, chocolate was Theobrama, the food of the gods, and certain kinds were served to Montezuma in gold vessels, hence Terry’s All Gold.

Terry’s was sold to Kraft in 1993. After giving assurances that they would keep open the York factory, they closed it in 2005, and shifted production to eastern Europe. The factory will now become (and I find I can hardly keep awake as I write the words) a “mixed use” building…”

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