Today is the end of an era for Australian chocoholics; the final day of an innocent pleasure that had thrived since the end of World War II.
After enjoying two generations as one of Tasmania’s leading tourist attractions, Cadbury is closing its visitors’ centre.
The once-popular trend of factory floor visits has been suffering a slow, lingering death thanks to food safety laws.
Once upon a time, visitors could enjoy a supervised visit to the Cadbury plant floor and even pluck bars of chocolate off the conveyor belts before they were wrapped. It was a highlight of a family holiday for me in the late 1950s to Tasmania – talk about a kid in a lolly shop and even mummy didn’t mind.
It will surprise many, I know, but I could be a precocious little brat (and, no doubt, I probably ended up sick as a dog because of this wanton indulgence) but all I remember is the sheer pleasure of the event. And, when I think about it, my mummy’s supreme indifference to how much I grabbed off the conveyor belt. She knew, just knew, that it was good for me. Mind you, mummy did insist that I carefully washed my hands before we ventured onto the production floor in case of germs. Whether I was in danger of contracting them or spreading them was never explained.
She was, after all, reassured by the advertising slogan promise of “a glass and a half of full cream dairy milk” in every bar. The slogan had been introduced by the British parent company in 1905 when it launched a new chocolate recipe, which boasted a higher amount of milk than European chocolate.
We all knew that chocolate – especially Cadbury’s chocolate – was really good for you. No kid got fat in those days, however much full cream chocolate they ate – but, then again, we weren’t wolfing down American-inspired fat-laden hamburgers and fries as well.
However, by the late 1980s, we all learned that full cream dairy milk was really, really bad for you. The obesity epidemic had struck and the slogan was adapted to “a glass and a half of goodness” to conform to the politically- and dietary-correct regime. And yet the company maintains, to this day, that the recipe is the same as it was when introduced 110 years ago.
Anyhow, the death of the production floor visits began when everybody had to wear hairnets, shoe covers and white coats. Then, in 2008, even those visits had to be abandoned because it simply wasn’t on to have strangers within arm’s reach of the production line.
So from then until today, all visitors got was a cup of hot chocolate while watching a DVD about the factory’s history and processes, followed by a visit to the on-site retail outlet where you could buy chocolate. Buy bloody chocolate within metres of where it was being made? Wasn’t that nice of them? Kiddies could also have a “photo opportunity” with a life-size Freddo cardboard cut-out and, naturally mummy and daddy had to pay for that as well.
Is it any wonder this “visitors’ centre” is closing down? Sadly, it means the loss of eleven jobs, and follows the loss of eighty jobs last May.
Prime Minister Abbott (remember him?) not only promised $16 million to help make the necessary upgrades at the factory to revive the tours, but he actually delivered the cash. Sadly, the parent company, Mondelez, couldn’t raise its $50 million share of the co-investment deal and it fell through.
And, naturally, the closure of the visitors’ centre has become a political football. All sorts of people at the Federal and State level are calling for action, having discussions and expressing a sorrow that borders on hysterical grief.
But nothing will bring back the good old days.
Food factory visits used to be quite an event when I was a kiddy. I remember going to the Arnott’s biscuit factory in Brisbane – now sadly gone the way of all flesh – and being somewhat appalled by vast vats of purple and pink goo which looked sick-making even to my young and greedy eyes. I’ve never felt the same way about the Iced Vovo since to be honest.
The sheer magic of factory visits for me returned in the late 1970s when I toured the Castlemaine Perkins brewery in Brisbane which, happily, still survives proving that XXXX has a greater staying power than the Iced Vovo. And, I am sure, it is far better for you.
Twenty or so years after my visit to Cadbury’s in Hobart I was a kid in a lolly shop once again and, surprise, surprise, once again I ended up feeling a tiny bit squeamish.
But, unlike chocolate and the Iced Vovo, I have soldiered on with XXXX even if I have to pay for it myself. There are only so many times you can have a free brewery tour every time you get a big, big thirst.
Are you a Cadbury fan? Have you visited the factory? Will you miss it?