Hershey Lawsuit Gives Theatre Britain's Intermission Sweets the Kiss-off

Like a less flashy Wonka Factory.
Like a less flashy Wonka Factory.
Ian Birch

CORRECTION: Jeff Beckman, director of corporate communications for The Hershey Co., sent us a letter telling us our statements about the differences between the recipes between Hershey's version and the British imported version of Cadbury's Dairy Milk were incorrect. We've appended his letter to the bottom of this story.

And Then There Were None is the title of Theatre Britain's next production, opening Friday, March 6, at Plano's 100-seat Cox Building Playhouse. It also describes what's about to happen to the theater company's stock of British-made intermission goodies. When the current inventory of Cadbury Dairy Milks, Flakes, Maltesers, Bournevilles, Curly Wurlys and other sweets sell out, Theatre Britain won't be able to get any more.

That's because a lawsuit by Hershey has stopped all imports of Cadbury chocolates from the UK. Hershey sued to halt the sale of British-made Cadbury products in the States after buying the right to manufacture and sell its own chocolates under the Cadbury label here. (Like those Cadbury cream eggs sold at Easter, now made in America by Hershey.)

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"It's just devastating," says Sue Birch, founder of Theatre Britain and director of And Then There Were None, an Agatha Christie whodunit about a series of murders among 10 people stranded on a desert island. "Cadbury candy is the thing that everyone wants at our shows. That's what our ex-pats [Brits now living here] look forward to, and our new patrons get to try something they've never had before. Cadbury is the chocolate for me. Hershey's chocolate does not taste very nice. The ingredients are inferior."

She's right. Hershey-made Cadbury stuff doesn't taste like the real thing. As The New York Times reported in January, Hershey-made Cadbury products use different recipes than Cadbury candy made overseas. British-made Cadbury has a higher butterfat content, a creamier texture and fewer chemical additives, with the first ingredient on the label of a Dairy Milk bar being "milk."* The top ingredient on an American-made Cadbury Dairy Milk is sugar. British Cadbury chocolates have a velvety texture compared to the chalky mouth-feel of the Hershey-made versions.

Birch has always kept Theatre Britain's intermission counter stocked with Cadbury items from the British Emporium in Grapevine, but their inventory of UK-made candy is running low now, too, and won't be replaced. Best sellers at her shows, says Birch, are Maltesers, Flakes and Buttons. At Theatre Britain's recent sold-out run of the holiday panto Beauty & the Beast, a patron bought a whole box of Crunchie bars to take home, says Birch.

The chocolate war will not affect Theatre Britain's other top-selling intermission snack, British-made "crisps" (potato chips) in flavors such as prawn, cheese and onion and roast chicken. "No, the crisps are not endangered," assures Birch. "But I was crushed when I learned that the roast chicken crisps put real chicken in them. I'm vegetarian."

From Jeff Beckman, director of corporate communications for The Hershey Co.: I'm writing about a recent story written by Elaine Liner about Cadbury chocolate in which she stated:

"Hershey-made Cadbury stuff doesn't taste like the real thing. As The New York Times reported in January, Hershey-made Cadbury products use different recipes than Cadbury candy made overseas. British-made Cadbury has a higher butterfat content, a creamier texture and fewer chemical additives, with the first ingredient on the label of a Dairy Milk bar being "milk." The top ingredient on an American-made Cadbury Dairy Milk is sugar. British Cadbury chocolates have a velvety texture compared to the chalky mouth-feel of the Hershey-made versions."

This is simply not accurate. Cadbury supplies Hershey with the core ingredients we use for our U.S. Cadbury milk chocolate bars -- the mixture of chocolate, sugar and milk that are at the core of a U.S. Cadbury chocolate bar we call chocolate crumb. Our crumb comes from a Cadbury factory in the British Isles that makes the crumb for bars sold in the UK version. Because we get our crumb from Cadbury in Europe, we have the same amounts of milk, sugar and chocolate in our bars. The only reason for the difference in the order of milk and sugar on the U.S. and UK labels is because of the difference in labeling requirements. In the UK, milk weight is measured in its heavier liquid form, and [in] the U.S., we are required to measure milk weight in its lighter evaporated form. If UK Cadbury bars were labeled to U.S. standards, the ingredients would be in the same order on both labels.

The notion of "chemical additives" is not accurate, either. Both versions use the same emulsifiers. However, we label those emulsifiers as PGPR and soy lecithin on our U.S. label. And because of different labeling requirements, UK bars list E442 and E476 on the label. E442 is lecithin and E476 is PGPR. Same.

The key difference is we use only cocoa butter as our "fat" to meet the U.S. FDA "standard of identity" for milk chocolate whereas in the UK, they are allowed to also use other vegetable oils such as palm and shea and still call the product "milk chocolate." We actually have a stricter milk chocolate standard in the United States because you cannot use less expensive vegetable oils and call it "milk chocolate" in the United States. On the other hand, our U.S. product does meet the standard for the UK and the EU and can be called milk chocolate there.

Because we import our crumb from Europe and use only genuine cocoa butter, this makes our Cadbury bar one of our most expensive recipes.

I hope that the Dallas Observer does not subscribe to knowingly posting or retaining information that is not true and I welcome corrections to the story which otherwise will sit on the internet and continue to mislead readers.

Thank you for your attention to this.

And Then There Were None runs at 8 p.m., Friday; 2:30 & 8 p.m., Saturday; and 2:30 p.m., Sunday, March 6-22, at the Cox Building Playhouse, 1517 H Avenue, Plano, TX 75074. Tickets $16-$21, at www.theatre-britain.com or 972-490-4202.


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