History, Non-Fiction

#452 The Emperors of Chocolate by Joel Glenn Brenner

The Emperors of Chocolate by Joel Glenn BrennerThe Emperors of Chocolate by Joel Glenn Brenner

Chocolate, everyone loves it, but few know that the big chocolate factories in the United States, Hershey and Mars, have had a long feud and shroud their processes in secrets. While it is true that you can go to Hershey and tour the factory, or rather, part of it, they’re not going to show you all the good stuff. They’re not going to tell you their recipes and they’re not going to show you how they get almonds inside of almond Hershey kisses, nobody knows.

The seeming war between the two factories is part of what inspired Roald Dahl to write his famous book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. If you’ve been living under a rock for the past forty years, the book is about a little boy who wins a golden ticket to tour a mysterious chocolate factory. The factory closed its doors because secrets were getting out, but candy kept coming out, even when no one ever went in.

The world of chocolate used to be more open, but it’s not anymore. When companies have to keep their edge by keeping a recipe that’s a little different from another company’s recipe, they’re secretive about their products. The intimate factory tours that used to happen in the early days of Milton Hershey are a thing of the past.

Hershey and Mars stories are both rags to riches stories. Neither family had money and both families ended up with some failures along the way. Somewhere amid all of that, the companies were able to blossom into what they are today. Few knew that the companies used to help each other our regularly. That M & M on your M & Ms stands for Mars and Murrie. Murrie was actually a Hershey employee that helped the Mars family formulate their bite sized chocolate pieces. Mars actually used to buy all of its coating chocolate from Hershey as well, but eventually reasoned that it should make as much of its own supplies as possible.

The families behind the chocolate factories are indeed interesting. Forest Mars is prone to blowing up and yelling at everyone. Milton Hershey was a childless philanthropist who created an entire town for his workers and set up a school for disadvantaged boys. Milton was happy to let the running of his factory be handled by others when he grew older, but the Mars brothers tend to keep the factory in their own hands.

The thing about Mars candy company is that it apparently pays very well. If Mars products do well, you do well; you get a bonus, in fact. Everyone gets a bonus for being on time. There are no offices. Everyone calls each other by their first names, which would be great if you didn’t have to deal with the legendary temper of Forest Mars.

The companies both went from very small family affairs to huge businesses, although, Hershey’s foreign market is stunted compared to the foreign market that Mars possesses. They’re still very secretive about their procedures and ingredients.

What I liked

This was my non-fiction book for the month. I have to say that this book was written well for a non-fiction book. It was informative and it wasn’t dry. Sometimes there can be all kinds of information in a book, but it’s written in such a manner that you can’t follow it, this book isn’t like that at all. Joel is good at what she does. Yes, Joel is a woman.

The world of chocolate is a very interesting world. It starts with figuring out how to make the cocoa beans into something you would want. The process could be elusive and took years to master. Afterwards these companies had to figure out what to do with their chocolate. Reading Joel’s book I can really tell that Roald Dahl was influenced by this battle between the two big chocolate companies.

I like chocolate; I’ve read books about chocolate before. It’s just really neat to be able to see how a creation comes to life, especially when it’s something as good as chocolate. These days I tend to lean more towards good chocolate, European stuff mainly, but I still enjoy a Reeses every so often.

The person who had this book before me was obviously doing a research paper. Her name may have been Pat because I found a laminated Kanji of “Pat” in the book and I also found several newspaper clippings about chocolate in the back of the book. They actually fell out onto me as I was reading. Pat highlighted and underlined certain parts of the book. I don’t know what she was researching for, but I hope it ended up well. My copy is actually a first edition, but first editions aren’t so impressive when they’re from 1999.

What I didn’t like

There were a few times where the book could get a little boring, especially when marketing and finance stuff was being discussed. I can follow marketing to an extent. I cannot follow finance. I’m not a finance person; I don’t like to discuss it. I can figure out my own finances, but I seriously don’t want to sit down to dinner and discuss percentages and dividends. I’m sorry, numbers are boring. If you want to prove me wrong, send me a really interesting book about numbers.


This was really the first time I’ve read about the Mars family and I found it quite interesting.

charlie and the chocolate factory, chocolate, competing chocolate factories, hershey, inside the secret world of hershey and mars, joel glenn brenner, m&ms, mars, reeses, reeses pieces, the emperors of chocolate, The Emperors of Chocolate by Joel Glenn Brenner, willy wonka
Brenner-Joel Glenn, History, Non-Fiction


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