US & Canada

Cadbury in the US: Fans stockpile sweets

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Media captionChocoholics are stocking up on Cadbury while they still can

In this globalised world, it's increasingly easy for British expats to buy the creature comforts of home - English tea, Irn-Bru or that most beloved British staple, Cadbury chocolate.

But in the United States, consumers will soon have trouble finding the "proper" Cadbury chocolate made with the British recipe.

Chocolate giant Hershey Inc has successfully blocked the import of many British sweets because, it says, it creates "brand confusion" with Hershey's products.

"I wouldn't give it to my worst enemy," Dympna Madeley, manager of the British Gift Shoppe at the Ye Olde King's Head Pub in Santa Monica, California, said when asked why she doesn't just sell the American version of the chocolate.

"American Cadbury chocolate is definitely not the same quality, not the same taste as English Cadbury chocolate - it's not the same quality, same consistency, it doesn't have the same shelf life - it's an inferior product to the English one for sure."

Ms Madeley urged customers to join a boycott of Hershey and to sign online petitions persuading the company to change their minds.

Cadbury chocolate varies around the world. In the UK, the first ingredient in a classic Dairy Milk bar is milk. In the United States, where Hershey has the license to make and sell all Cadbury products, the first ingredient is sugar. Ms Madeley says her customers wouldn't buy the US kind even if she stocked it.

Thousands of fans in small shops across the United States and on social media have been urging Hershey to allow them legal access to their favourite British creamy treats. Some have even called for a Boston Tea Party-like protest with plots to throw "inferior" chocolates into the nearest body of water.

Soon the US recipe may be their only choice. Hershey sued LBB Imports, which used to be known as Lets Buy British Imports, for trademark infringement and dilution, arguing that Toffee Crisp's orange packaging was too similar to Reese's peanut butter cups and that Yorkie bars were too confusing to people looking for York Peppermint Patties.

Hershey has the rights in the United States to sell York, Cadbury, Kit Kat and Rolo trademarks as well as Maltesers (so British Maltesers are out too).

Image caption Chocolate at the British Gift Shoppe at the Ye Olde King's Head pub

The lawsuit was settled after LBB Imports agreed to stop importing the disputed products. LBB Imports President Nathan Dulley says he estimates that about $50m worth of British chocolate is sold in the United States each year - a Hershey's Kiss sized drop in the grand scheme of American chocolate sales.

While Mr Dulley says Hershey's case has merit, he thinks it's petty and that Pennsylvania-based Hershey should have allowed the small amount of imports for the niche expatriate market.

"We did attempt to make an agreement. Ultimately, these decisions do affect small businesses across the country," Dulley says. "At end of the day you're talking about a $6bn (£4bn) behemoth - both businesses should be able to coexist."

Hershey executives have said they want to protect their intellectual property and that they'd asked LBB repeatedly to stop importing the disputed chocolates. They have not commented on the social media call #BoycottHershey or the online petitions, including one posted on the White House website.

More than 30,000 people have signed the online petitions in protest and on Twitter chocolate lovers are milking the spat to condemn what they feel are chemical-laden, inferior Hershey products.

"Shame on you Hershey. Give the people what they want! #boycotthershey Good ingredients trump crap every time," read one tweet.

And in stores across the United States, shoppers are buying as much of the so-called proper chocolate they can afford or carry.

Allen Roberts, who moved from Manchester to California in 1959, was furious at the news and stocking up on chocolates at the Ye Olde King's Head. He reminisced about the Cadbury bars he received as a boy in ration packs during World War II.

Image caption Customers were eager to stock up

"Even though Hitler bombed the place up to heck we still got that Cadburys and here we are now, we're not going to get it? That doesn't make sense, does it? Isn't that terrible?"

Jessica Bailey, a Briton stocking up on chocolates with her husband and son, said she would boycott all Hershey products.

"I'm kind of a bit anti-Hershey now and I probably won't buy anything that they make," she said. Her husband said if they had a truck they would buy everything in the store.

Patricia Jane, who moved to Los Angeles from Texas last week, says her British wife is very upset about the ban.

Ms Jane was stocking up on chocolates and said her wife planned to have family in the UK post her chocolates in the future, rather than eat the American kind.

As an American, which does Ms Jane prefer?

"I like the American kind. It's how I was raised, but she deserves her chocolates too."

For small businesses like Ye Olde King's Head British Gift Shoppe, Ms Madeley says it will really hurt business, especially during Christmas and Easter.

"There will be no real Cadbury chocolates in the Easter baskets," she said. "Children will be crying in the streets."