First Green & Black’s got gobbled by Cadbury in May 2005, and then Scharffen Berger and Joseph Schmidt were folded into the goopy batter of Hershey’s chocolate brands a few months later. Just last week, one of the few indie holdouts in the national artisan chocolate market, the eco-conscious brand Dagoba, sold to Hershey—and the move has caused a stir in the candy-blogging world.
Some prominent voices don’t seem to fear the buyout, viewing it as a partnership that will merely serve to increase the resources available to Dagoba without changing the product. As Nicole of Slashfood writes:
Some fans of Dagoba might be concerned that there will be a decrease in the overall quality of the product following the acquisition, or a turn away from the goals of the company in supporting the organic farming of cacao, but Hershey’s says that it will support the company in the pursuit of its goals. As with Scharffen Berger and Joseph Schmidt, which is also owned by Hershey’s, the larger company has no plans to rework the operations of Dagoba. From the perspective of the consumer, the most significant change will be an increase in the availability of organic chocolates, since Dagoba will now be able to take advantage of the Hershey’s distribution network.
Many readers remain unconvinced, however. Plenty of them simply break out the old corporations-are-evil chestnut, but a few—especially on David Lebovitz’s blog—have interesting thoughts about the buyout. As Kevin (who runs the food blog Seriously Good) writes,
[Dagoba’s owner Frederick] Schilling has obviously never been through a corporate acquisition before. Things will remain the same for at most 2 years—but probably not that long.
Seems like that was just about the amount of time it took for the Unilever company to gunk up Ben & Jerry’s ice cream with lots of artificial ingredients that I don’t remember being there before the socially conscious creamery was bought in 2000. One would imagine that six years later, with the organic- and natural-foods market in full swing, Hershey might think twice about pulling the same kind of ingredient switcheroo—but of course that all could change if the new parent company ever decides that consumers have stopped paying attention. I’m also interested to see whether Hershey will let Dagoba continue to make all its own sourcing decisions or whether it will procure some ingredients at the corporate level (thereby switching, say, the organic milk in Dagoba’s milk chocolate to a huge national brand with questionable practices).
In the meantime, I think I’ll use this as an excuse to stockpile chai and xocolatl bars.