Remember when Willy Wonka closed his factories to outsiders and replaced his entire workforce with an orange dwarf sweatshop because he was worried about rivals stealing his secrets? It turns out that Roald Dahl, the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, was drawing upon the actual behavior of companies such as Nestle and Rowntree, who were well known for sending spies, posing as workers, into factories to steal trade secrets. As a result, both began to guard their chocolate making processes very carefully.
Toblerone and Nestle would have done well to follow suit. Remember when Forrest Mars went to Europe to begin his own chocolate empire? He simply got a job with Toblerone first, then with Nestle, learned all their secrets and got the hell out of there. Most importantly, he learned never to let outsiders into his factories. If he absolutely had to, he made visiting workers enter and leave by the same way and forced them to wear blindfolds.
"Hey, before I fill out my W-9 and whatnot, I just want to be sure: This is a fucking candy company, right?"
The paranoia came to a crescendo when a Nestle product called Magic (which they themselves ripped off from an Italian treat called Kinder Surprise) was forced off the market when the U.S. Government feared it would become a choking hazard. Certain that the Mars company was somehow behind this, Nestle chairman Helmut Maucher sent out his own spies, private detectives and winged monkeys, to get to the bottom of it.
Mars' executives were followed, conversations were eavesdropped upon, phone records were obtained and dumpsters were raided. Nestle agents were placed strategically all over a restaurant where executives were dining so someone would be certain to be within earshot of the conversation.
See if you can spot the Nestle spy in this picture.
Crazy, right? Not really. Mars actually was behind the death of the chocolate toy egg thing, and since Nestle had already lost millions on the product, Mars didn't really need to give a shit.
They've since come to terms, apparently. In 2008, federal regulators in Germany, Canada and the U.S. investigated several chocolate companies, including Hershey, Mars, Cadbury and Nestle, for price fixing.
Executives from rival companies, according to one affidavit, have been meeting in coffee shops since 2001 (or possibly earlier) in order to set prices, meaning we all probably paid too much for every candy bar this past decade. Motivating this uneasy alliance, most likely, was an increase in the cost of cacao and milk, and the more or less unchanged level of chocolate sales.
Or maybe they just like money.
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