Blog: Dean BestCadbury on the front foot in its war of independence

Dean Best | 15 December 2009

Of course, like many a senior executive, the speeches given by Todd Stitzer, the CEO of UK confectioner Cadbury, are littered with jargon and business-speak.

Phrases like consumers "building participation" in the chocolate category" or the "operational drivers" of spending money on distribution and moving into new markets sometimes struggle to get the message across.

However, Stitzer's move yesterday (14 December) to quote radical intellectual and revolutionary Thomas Paine, while slightly off-piste, betrayed an almost emotional commitment to Cadbury's future as an independent company.

"In another war for independence, Thomas Paine wrote: 'The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph,'" Stitzer said.

He continued the Paine prose. "What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly….It is dearness only that gives everything its value. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress and grow brave by reflection.”

Of course, in business, there is - and some would say should be - little room for sentiment. But, to be fair to Stitzer, after a series of ding-dongs with the unions over Cadbury's restructuring plans in recent years, it was heartening to hear his belief in the business.

Cadbury's belief in its future as an independent company is growing more robust by the day, with the Wispa maker taking Stitzer's war of independence and turning it into a war of words with Kraft.

Cadbury responded to Kraft's assertion that the Dairy Milk and Trident group's investors were still open to "significant risk" with a taunt that the US food giant had "run out of ideas".

However, while the two sides swap insults over whether or not Cadbury can meet its new 2013 targets, one thing seems clear - Kraft will have to return to the table in the New Year.

"It will need more than Kraft’s current offer (especially with the potential emergence of counter-bidders) to get Cadbury to sell given the strong expected operating performance," Sanford Bernstein analyst Andrew Wood wrote after Cadbury's day of presentations.

"The new medium-term operating plan is appropriate:  evolution, not revolution…the new targets are a stretch but make sense. We are making no major changes to our model as we were already adequately bullish about Cadbury’s prospects...management guidance has now caught up."

The ball, then, is back in Kraft's court.


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