Has Kraft saved Keynsham?
So the battle is over. After six months of very public wrangling, Cadburys and Kraft have kissed, made up, and signed a deal. The details are for our city desk, but the fact that Cadburys are recommending the takeover changes everything for Keynsham.
The town's chocolate factory, earmarked for closure this year under Cadbury plans, should now be saved if Kraft keep their promise.
(Kraft's UK Chief Exec, Nick Bunker, speaking in October 2009)
"I'm feeling elated, but jittery", Amoree Radford told BBC Radio Bristol this morning. Amoree's been a lone voice for the past six months, the only Brit backing Kraft. But when Cadburys said they would close the Keynsham factory two years ago, Amoree began a tenacious campaign to "Save Cadburys in Keynsham".
There's been a chocolate factory in the town on the banks of the Avon since 1935. Ironically, it was founded after another merger, this time one in which Cadbury was the predator, taking over the Bristol firm of JS Fry. Fry's Chocolate Cream and Turkish Delight were already household favourites, and Fry's became a tasty treat that the larger Birmingham company took a shine to. Sound familiar?
Over the next 75 years the factory became a central part of Keynsham life. Its 230-acre site is a familiar landmark, not least because much of it is covered in football pitches. My mother-in-law played hockey on the grounds, as have thousands of Keynshamites and indeed Bristolians over the years. The Quaker community principles rooted Cadbury's deep into the fabric of local life.
All that love was lost in a big hurry when Cadbury announced, in 2007, they would close the place. This was to be the plant's last year in operation. Spin forward to 7 September 2009, and tucked away in Kraft's offer for Cadburys was this pledge:
"We believe we would be in a position to continue to operate the Somerdale facility,
which is currently planned to be closed."
So, should Keynsham trust the Americans? Unite, the staff union, is sceptical. They point to Kraft's takeover of Terry's of York, in the 1990s. Go to York today, and union leaders will show you a museum but no factory. The famous chocolate orange is now made in Poland. But in Kraft's defence, they did operate the York plant for 13 years after the takeover. And Keynsham's chocolate factory had been marched right to the brink, so people there tell me Kraft cannot be worse than the Cadbury management.
"Kraft's people seem very nice," Amoree Radford told me this morning. "They employ over a thousand people making Kenco coffee here. Their base is just up the road in Cheltenham. And the Cadbury board have already done the dirty on us. We never wanted to lose the chocolate, we wanted to lose the board."
For now, we must wait and see the details of the deal. But one thing is sure. If you want to find people cheering the takeover of a British chocolate icon by an American food giant, the best place to look is Keynsham.