South Africa’s great chocolate rivalry

31 July 2008

The South African chocolate market is valued at more than R3-billion, and growing at an estimated 3% per annum. And the Eastern Cape can boast more than its fair share of this success, with the country’s only Cadbury and Nestle chocolate factories situated in the province.

The history of Cadbury and Nestle in South Africa goes back to the early 1900s, when both first established their factories in the Eastern Cape

Cadbury

Cadbury has been synonymous with chocolate since 1824, when John Cadbury opened his first shop in Birmingham in the United Kingdom, establishing a flourishing dynasty that, today, has one of its biggest manufacturers situated in Port Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela Bay.

Go to Eastern Cape Madiba Action The world-class chocolate manufacturing plant, which supplies all the Cadbury chocolate for the South African market, was established 78 years ago by the Cadbury brothers and forms part of Cadbury Schweppes’ Cadbury Southern Africa business.

“It was over 100 years ago, in 1903, that Cadbury brothers Richard and George first brought their brands to South Africa, when they appointed a sales agent to sell their products,” says Cadbury SA communications manager Michelle Meiring. “Due to the phenomenal sales, the South African company was formed in 1926, with the opening of the Port Elizabeth factory in 1930.

“Today, the PE manufacturing plant is the heart of our business, employing more than 1 250 people.”

All of Cadbury’s moulded brands (slabs) are manufactured at the Port Elizabeth plant, namely, Dairy Milk, Top Deck, Wholenut, Mint Crisp and Fruit & Nut. Some of the biggest brands in South Africa have also been created here, including top market performers Lunch Bar and PS, as well as Tempo, Question and Astros.

“Talking about local, we have had great success with our ‘Local ‘n Lekker’ range that is also manufactured in PE,” says Meiring. “The popular range features South African flavours such as Melktert“.

Other recent innovations include Flake Orange and Lunch Bar Dream (a white chocolate version of Lunch Bar).

Cadbury uses a large group of South African suppliers for its main ingredients such as milk and glucose, as well as its marketing, distribution, warehousing and packaging.

Meiring says the PE plant’s cocoa is procured internationally by Cadbury Schweppes plc, which sources from countries such as Ghana, Nigeria, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Cadbury also has manufacturing plants in Swaziland (producing Chappies bubblegum and Eclairs), in Botswana (producing Stimorol and Clorets gum products) and Namibia (producing seasonal products such as Easter eggs and Valentines and Christmas offerings).

The Port Elizabeth plant supplies some of the chocolate for the Namibia plant and the caramilk for the Eclairs manufactured in Swaziland.

Due to the aggressive growth in the market and demand for Cadbury products, says Meiring, the chocolate manufacturer will continue to invest significantly in its Nelson Mandela Bay manufacturing plant.

Nestle

Nestle, the world’s largest food and beverage firm, was registered as a company in South Africa in 1916 – with its first factory being established in East London 44 years after its first products arrived in the country in 1872.

“Visiting the East London plant is always exciting for me,” says Theo Mxakwe, director of corporate communication and public affairs at Nestle. “This factory is unique as it is the only chocolate manufacturer Nestle has in South Africa, but punches way beyond its weight as a supplier of chocolate to the southern, eastern and equatorial African regions.”

The East London plant manufactures some of South Africa’s favourite chocolate brands, including Bar-One, KitKat, Smarties, Tex, Crisp, Rolo, Quality Street and Passions. According to Nestle, placing the number of KitKat bars produced each year end-to-end would add up to a distance of 15 500 kilometres – reaching from East London to Cairo and back!

The East London factory is also responsible for some of Nestle’s more complex manufacturing processes. “It’s a complex plant in terms of the number of processes and sub-processes required to manufacture chocolate,” says Mxakwe. “This compels us to keep our quality standards at optimum levels at all times.”

Nestle has, in the last year, invested heavily in increasing its chocolate-producing lines from six to 11. “We’ve turned Nestle in East London, in particular, from a multi-product sugar and chocolate plant to a dedicated chocolate-manufacturing business,” says Mxakwe. This has streamlined the business and enabled Nestle to become more competitive in its market niche without compromising on the nutritional aspects of its chocolate products, he adds.

The international food giant’s confectionery plant in East London was established in 1883 as a confectionary business. James Wilson acquired an interest in it in 1890. The first shareholders’ meeting of joint Wilson & Co. and Rowntree & Co. was held in 1926, and in 1957 Wilson-Rowntree (Pty) Ltd was established. In 1988 it formed a division of Nestle (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd following Nestle’s purchase of Rowntree plc.

Henri Nestle, a Swiss pharmacist, established the Nestle brand in 1866 with the hope of benefiting society. He produced the first milk-cereal food for children, and while Nestle’s original business was based on milk and dietetic foods for children, numerous other food products have been added to the range over the years.

These include chocolate, instant beverages, culinary, refrigerated and frozen products, ice-cream, mineral water and pet food.

This article was first published in Eastern Cape Madiba Action, winter 2008 edition. Republished here with kind permission.