Blog: Dean BestBananas and Bournville - food 'wars' herald end of 2009

Dean Best | 21 December 2009

While everyone else is running around (no doubt with elbows pointing outwards) snaffling up those last-minute Christmas presents, Cadbury boss Todd Stitzer is dashing around selling the UK confectioner's defence against the Kraft Foods bid to investors.

The Cadbury dossier, published in London last week, was broadly welcomed by analysts, who stood by their belief that Kraft needs to up its offer if it wants to prevail in its pursuit of the Dairy Milk maker.

Cadbury's defence included higher sales, margins and dividend targets, which attracted a withering response from Kraft - which in turn drew a dismissive retort from the UK firm.

Cadbury's press team sent out a missive last week that, as well as detailing how to contact them over Christmas, said they were "rather presumptuously" humming John Lennon's 'Happy Christmas (War Is Over)'.

All very entertaining but, behind the bluster, lies the certainty that Kraft will have to return to the table in the New Year with a better bid if it wants to successfully woo Cadbury shareholders.

With Hershey, Ferrero and even Nestle's intentions still unknown, the most high-profile M&A story of 2009 looks likely to run well into 2010.

However, one food 'war' was seemingly ended last week when the EU - at long last - struck a deal over its banana import regime.

The WTO has held dispute hearings on bananas since 1996 and its director-general called the trade row "one of the most technically complex, politically sensitive and commercially meaningful" disputes heard by the global trade body.

But now, peace has been brokered - and bananas from Latin America will face less stiff import restrictions when entering the EU.

Alas, bananas and the EU remained bed-fellows in the just-food headlines last week when it emerged that the European Commission had started a probe into claims of a cartel in southern Europe - a year after finding the likes of Dole and Chiquita guilty of a similar arrangement in the north of the continent.

We closed the week with our review of the year in which we chose five manufacturers and retailers for whom 2009 was a good year - and five others for whom the last 12 months would be a year to forget.

It has been a challenging year and, although some economies have moved out of recession, it is unclear whether recovery will be sustained once governments dial down their stimulus measures. 2010 could prove just as tough.

But let's end on a brighter note. just-food continues to go from strength to strength and a huge factor in that is the support you have given us in 2009. Thanks for all your comments - good and bad - and your help and encouragement during the year.

On our travels, we have met plenty of those in our industry who believe the future remains bright - even if there are a few clouds on the horizon.

So, on that note, merry Christmas and a prosperous 2010 from all at just-food.

John Harris / reportdigital.co.uk

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