James Cadbury: Continuing the Family Legacy Through Sustainability

Published by Gary Ellis on June 28th 2024, 9:10am

In the heart of Birmingham near the historic Cadbury Factory in Bournville, a young James Cadbury discovered his love for the product that made his family world-renowned. “I grew up near the factory which I regularly visited with school and found my passion for chocolate,” he recalls.

But before delving into his own chocolate production, James took a detour through academia with marketing and entered the world of finance. Despite the security and lucrative pay, he found himself yearning for more. “I was never very passionate about trading,” James admits. “I just wanted to scratch that entrepreneurial itch.”

Heeding the call of his love for making chocolate and the lure of entrepreneurship, James decided to take a leap of faith. “I realised that you get one chance in life, so let’s give it a go,” He gave himself six months to get products ready and start selling, a challenge he successfully met.

A cornerstone of James’s venture was his commitment to sustainability. He sought out sustainable suppliers, attending numerous trade shows and ventured to countries like Colombia and Peru to meet them personally. “I always wanted to work with truly sustainable suppliers,” he emphasises.

The Cadbury lineage is steeped in chocolate. James’s great-great-grandfather, John, set up a small grocery shop in 1824, selling teas, coffees, and packaged goods. The shop eventually began selling hot chocolate, inspired by the posh cocoa houses of Madrid, and the Cadbury story grew from there.

Being Quakers, the Cadbury family saw cocoa as an alternative to alcohol, which was consumed excessively in Birmingham at the time. “They heard about this cacao drink and brought it into the shop, started selling it, and it became incredibly popular,” James recounts. The Cadbury family ventured into retail to assist this uptake in popularity, but the game-changer came 40 years later with the assistance of a Dutch machine called Van Houten. George Cadbury, who was about to get married, invested all his savings into this machine, transforming their small manufacturing business into the biggest in the UK and a worldwide brand.

In his youth, hearing these stories fuelled James’ passion for entrepreneurship. He greatly admired his great-great-grandfather George, who was as ethical as he was innovative. “To me, what was so successful back then was the concept of doing well by doing good,” Cadbury explains.

In this regard, the family were pioneers for the time, encouraging their workers to exercise and constructed homes with gardens for them, whilst also advocating for civil rights. “They did some amazing things which aren't always remembered in their legacy, but I see them as big sources of inspiration,” James reflects.

Very soon, James will also be continuing the family legacy with a physical location. “People will be able to come in, have a hot chocolate, an ice cream with chocolate on, or try some of the different chocolates we offer,” he says. This modern chocolatier, set to open its first store in London in September, is a significant step in scaling the brand.

Pioneering Ethical and Sustainable Chocolate Production

James is not just a chocolatier, he’s a pioneer in ethical and sustainable chocolate production, nodding to the positive impact created by his forebears. His commitment to ethical sourcing is evident in his stance against working with certain countries in Africa with slavery concerns, exclusively using non-plastics and recyclable materials, sourcing from farmers and suppliers who are paid a fair wage, and his efforts to combat deforestation, a significant issue in the cocoa chocolate world, particularly in Ivory Coast and Ghana. “We’ve planted over 1.8 million trees for Love Cocoa,” James proudly shares.

Being at the helm of a startup, James understands the importance of translating a specific vision and getting people to believe in it. He believes that the essence of leadership lies in the ability to inspire one’s team. “For me, a good leader inspires people and makes sure they bring in the right people whilst efficiently communicating the message and vision,” he says.

What’s more, James emphasises the importance of people in business. He recalls the early days of his ventures when they hired “hungry young people who were perfect for that stage of the business.” But as the business scaled up, the need for more senior people became apparent, which provided a learning experience in itself.

James also highlights the importance of adaptability and resilience in leadership. He points out that leaders will face many rejections when trying to sell their product to different retailers and will encounter various issues along the way. He believes that the ability to adapt to these challenges and pivot if necessary, whether it be into different products or a different vision, is crucial.

Carrying the Cadbury Torch

James has a clear vision of the legacy he wishes to leave behind. He aspires to be remembered as a good leader who cared for his employees and the origins of his products and having his brands become household names.

He envisions Love Cocoa and HiP Chocolate as places where people can indulge in chocolate treats, and emphasises the importance of balance and the desire to provide a place where people can treat themselves. “If people want to come and treat themselves, then we want to be there for them,” he says, “and provide a place where people can come and have some delicious products which are also sustainable and ethical.”

Ultimately, James hopes that his legacy will be two amazing brands that people enjoy and that will hopefully be around for as long as Cadbury. “Who knows what the future holds, but leaving that legacy would be great,” he muses.

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Authored By

Gary Ellis
Senior Editor
June 28th 2024, 9:10am

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