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Inside the Chocolate Factory after Acquisition

Justin Cook , head of the Irish arm of Mondelez International – the Cadbury and Kraft amalgamation – tells John Mulligan how the initially tricky marriage is going and that innovation is key to the company's growth.

Justin Cook warns good-naturedly as we're donning hair nets and white coats not to swipe any chocolate from the conveyor belts. Inside the Cadbury plant on Dublin's northside, it's all stainless steel, robot packers, computers and technicians. Not an Oompa Loompa in sight. No three-course dinner gum. Dreams are unceremoniously shattered.

But it's admittedly impressive nonetheless. About 650 Twirls a minute pirouette towards the packing area, while dozens of Starbars get lathered in chocolate in one dunk. Cadbury has been making chocolate in Ireland for 80 years and today about 80pc of the output –which also includes Time Out and Flakes – is exported, destined primarily for the UK, but also for markets such as Germany.

At any one time there's about 150 people working on the separate floors of the extensive facility, but the fact they're dotted over such a large area sometimes makes it seem as if this is a sparsely populated chocolate Nirvana.
Cook – a native of York who studied geography at the University of Nottingham – has been in charge of the operation for about a year, having been parachuted in from Kraft.

As head of the Irish arm of Mondelez International – the name concocted last year following the 2009 acquisition of Cadbury for £11.4bn (€13.3bn at the time) by Kraft – he's got plenty of experience. He joined Kraft in 1991, and has had long stints with the group in locations such as Stockholm and Zurich.

The acquisition of Cadbury, which caused political and consumer consternation in Britain, even led to calls for the UK government to use its power to selectively overrule some M&A activity.

Cook acknowledges that there were cultural differences between Kraft and Cadbury, but insists they've been by-and-large ironed out. Still, the two are effectively newlyweds.

"It was harder for the UK operation, in that there was a very large Cadbury business merging with an even bigger Kraft business," he explains. "In Ireland, it's essentially a Cadbury business with some Kraft thrown in." The entire Mondelez range includes products from Kenco coffee, Dairylea, and Philadelphia cheese spread, to Toblerone, Oreo and Belvita. "Culturally, I think Kraft is more head than heart, while Cadbury is the opposite. It's a nice marriage." 

Source: www.independent.ie - 24 October 2013