Cadbury Bows to People Power, Drops Palm Oil


Anthropologist Margaret Mead once said: “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

If you’ve ever doubted this, look no further than Cadbury chocolate.

Last month we reported that Cadbury decided to add palm oil to its chocolate in Australia and New Zealand. The company insisted it was doing so not to save money but to “improve” its chocolate as the palm oil produced a “softer” product than chocolate made with real cocoa butter.

The reaction of the Australian and Kiwi public to such obvious spin was scathing. Furious chocolate lovers organised anti-Cadbury campaigns on Facebook and Twitter and the issue hit the national news on both sides of the Tasman Sea.

Every foodie knows that palm oil is a cheap and inferior substitute for cocoa butter, but the real concern for environmentalists was the fact that palm oil production is linked to deforestation and habitat destruction in South-East Asia and Africa. Cadbury insisted it would buy only sustainably-produced palm oil but this claim was dubious at best, something our original post explains in far more detail.

Thankfully, Cadbury has bowed to public pressure and the Australian press is reporting that the company has decided to remove palm oil from the chocolate recipe. A victory for people power!

What does Cadbury have to say about this? Both the main Cadbury Australia and New Zealand sites are curiously silent but have deleted the sections on why palm oil is so wonderful from the frequently asked questions.

However, Cadbury has responded to the criticism on its website – not to be confused with the protest site. The site carries a press release quoting Cadbury New Zealand managing director Matthew Oldham, said the decision to go back to using only cocoa butter in Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate was in direct response to consumer feedback.

“At the time, we genuinely believed we were making the right decision, for the right reasons. But we got it wrong. Now we’re putting things right as soon as we possibly can, and hope Kiwis will forgive us. Cadbury Dairy Milk’s quality is what’s made it one of New Zealand’s most trusted brands for many years. Changing the recipe put that trust at risk and I am really sorry.”

Cadbury cited “passionate comments via social media environments” and confirmed the decision covered Australia as well. There is no sign that Cadbury intends to reverse its decision to downsize from 250g to 200g – but the company maintains that it has decreased its wholesale price accordingly.

It is probably no coincidence that the company has also joined Twitter since the furor broke – tweeting as @cadbury_aunz since August 13. Via the Twitter account, the company has acknowledged it was “wrong” and had gone back to its original recipe after strong feedback from consumers. The company also mentioned the UK business was Fair Trade-certified and other businesses would follow.

Social media gives consumers more power than ever, making it easier for that “small group of thoughtful people” to change the world. Cadbury has learned this the hard way – but good on them for doing the right thing in the end.

Image: Vlad the Impala