By now, Americans have been browbeaten into accepting the reality that corporations are people. That's right guys, say it with me: "Corporations are people and The Hershey Company is a jerk."
This week, a settlement between The Hershey Company and Let's Buy British Imports was announced, effectively banning the import of Cadbury chocolate made overseas to the U.S., which means that Toffee Crisps, Maltesers, British Kit Kats, Crunchie Bars and basically every other great British candy bar we've grown accustomed to will soon cease to be available outside the black market or devoted friends' suitcases.
As reported by The New York Times, "Hershey's has a licensing agreement to manufacture Cadbury's chocolate in the United States with similar packaging used overseas, though with a different recipe." What makes the recipe different? More sugar, less milk, unpronounceable emulsifiers that screw gravely with the mouthfeel of the chocolate. Let's just say what the NYT is too polite to, because I am out of fucks to give: it tastes shittier.
This sucks for so many reasons, beyond the obvious detriment to our taste buds. Firstly, the reasoning supplied by Hershey's legal team -- they have to protect their copyrights in the U.S. by making sure that consumers aren't "confused or misled when they see a product name or product package that is confusingly similar to a Hershey name or trade dress."
That's right, they are actually saying out loud to our faces that they are protecting us from being too stupid to know which chocolates we are buying.
The actual takeaway from that weak, weak, weak official statement is a symptom of American business culture as a whole -- the only success is constant upward and outward growth, at any cost. In this case, the cost isn't only our enjoyment of a specialty food product, it's also the livelihood of many a small business, like NYC's Tea & Sympathy -- known for carrying the British imports that ex-pats and food nerds alike have a constant hankering for.
Hershey's already owns the shelves of every grocery and convenience store in the country. Why go the extra mile to strangle the market share of small, specialty businesses that sell British imports? How much of a ding can that really put in their balance sheet at the end of the year?
In my own shop, Pop+Dutch, Crunchie bars and Flake bars outsold Snickers nearly two-to-one. Thankfully, we don't rely on those sales for the core of our business, but it still means we'll either have to turn to more Byzantine measures to get our British chocolate, or sell an inferior product. Guess which one I'm going to do?
If The Hershey Company wants an EVEN BROADER market share in the U.S., wouldn't the honorable thing to do be to make better chocolate? To edge these British imports out based on quality and actual competition? Unfortunately, using better ingredients costs more money -- certainly more money than the undisclosed settlement amount in question.
Real talk: This is America. And in America, the loudest voice is usually the richest. We're certainly neither the richest nor the loudest, here on our food-obsessed spit of land at the end of Cape Cod, but we do have some money to talk with, and here's our new plan:
If Hershey's wants to use their considerable corporate weight to keep some of the best imported chocolate from reaching American shores for their own benefit, we'll do our best to support the proliferation of the best domestic chocolate we've got. Let's use this as an opportunity to stop buying crappy, waxy Snickers bars in bulk for sale in our small businesses, and instead re-direct that money to other small businesses that deserve a shot. We're talking about Compartes in LA, TCHO in San Francisco, and Chequessett Chocolate -- local Cape Cod favorites.
Do you have a favorite domestic chocolate producer that you think deserves some of Hershey's marketshare? Let us know about them in the comments! Bullies suck. Let's take back our chocolate money.