The REAL Chocolate Wars

Book Review of The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars” by Joël Glenn Brenner

f9b94-emperors2bof2bchocolateA friend gave me this book to read because she knows my deep devotion to chocolate. She was reading it for its marketing and business information. Well, anything about chocolate must be interesting, but business and marketing…? Honestly, despite the topic, I didn’t expect myself to get through more than a page or two. However, much to my surprise, after reading the first few pages, I suddenly found that I couldn’t put this book down. Now, I never had this type of an experience with a non-fiction book before. And what’s more, almost everyone who reads this book will find something out that they didn’t know before – whether it’s about chocolate or business or industry.

So what will you know when you’ve finished reading this book? You’ll know how two competitors work. You’ll know how they organize their companies. You’ll know how they develop new products, and why they use one recipe versus another. You’ll learn about both their strokes of marketing genius, and the stupid mistakes that could have been avoided. You’ll see how different perspectives towards these issues have kept these two companies fighting for the highest market share possible, in every location across the globe.

Does that sound boring? Well, it isn’t. Little did I know that when I started reading this book that I would soon be so captivated that had John Grisham or Stephen King had seen me, they would have turned green with envy. To say the least, this isn’t your typical business book – it has action, comedy, suspense, drama, romance and thrills. It’s all because of Ms. Brenner’s writing style. Brenner brings even the very mundane into the realm of fascination. She focuses on the intrigue so although it’s really economics, it’s still interesting. She works her way around marketing so that it’s suddenly as moving as a love scene. And as for business, by her hand it sounds downright bubbly. This talent is rare and should be treasured.

Mind you, you aren’t going to find out all the secrets behind these two companies. You probably won’t find out any real secrets at all. In fact, it has been said that the CIA could take tips from Mars on keeping secrets from competitors. Hell, if I was head honcho at the Pentagon, I’d hire Mars as my #1 consultant on security. Hershey’s, on the other hand, was always a bit more open to the public – but that didn’t stop them from hiding certain areas of their factory during their (I believe, now defunct) guided tours, and almost from Brenner herself, did it?

What fun things will you discover? You’ll find out how the famous American chocolate given away by Allied soldiers during WWI and WWII differed from the chocolate we eat today. You’ll find out why anyone who has tasted European milk chocolate will find Hershey’s to taste extremely… um… different, to say the least. You’ll find out why E.T. followed a trail of Reece’s Pieces instead of some other taste tempter. You’ll find out why one type of nut is preferred by one company over another. You’ll find out just how stubborn these two companies are to change. But mostly, you’ll find out just how competitive two rivals can be and how little you know about something that touches your world every single day, and is one of the world’s most heated and important markets since its discovery.

This may still not tempt you to read this book, but I’ve tried my best. You’ll have to trust me on this one. I highly recommend this book, with only one hesitation – you’ll be tempted to eat too much chocolate during and after the reading. My suggestion is you buy the book then buy some fine chocolates to go with it!


Originally published by Random House in 1998 and later released by Broadway Books in 2000, this book is available (new or used or via marketplaces) from Amazon, AlibrisBetter World Books (promoting world-wide literacy). (These are affiliate links.)

4 thoughts on “The REAL Chocolate Wars

  1. I was involved in the marketing arena before I retired so this could be of interest. You’re right about the difference between Hersheys and European chocolate. Hershey’s doesn’t even count as chocolate in my book. American versions of bars we get in the UK are different too – they tend to be much sweeter and not as chocolate tasting…

    Liked by 1 person

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