Craig Sams, co-founder of Green & Black’s, is to chocolate what Anita Roddick is to soap. Raised in California, Sams moved to Britain in the 1960s and made a name for himself as a health food guru.
Sams and his wife set up Green & Black’s in 1991 after holidaying in Belize, where they drank a local drink flavoured with cocoa beans and spices. This inspired them to launch Green & Black’s Maya Gold chocolate, with the Fair Trade kitemark ensuring good prices and fair treatment for Mayan farmers.
Cadbury’s chief executive Todd Stitzer saw the potential in adding a trendy, organic niche brand to the Cadbury stable. Cadbury wins access to a fast-growing segment of the market.
Green & Black’s benefits from Cadbury’s immense marketing clout, while ostensibly being left alone to do its own thing. How long that lasts remains to be seen.
Sams, now president, began to distance himself from his hippy origins in 1999 when he sold 80% of the business to a team of investors led by William Kendall, former chief executive of New Covent Garden Soup Company. Sams held on to a 20% stake, and made about £4m from the Cadbury sale.
That would buy a lot of organic muesli. But who was quoted in an article in 1994 saying: ‘I don’t want to put Nestl‚, Cadbury’s and the rest out of business, but I would like to rattle their cage’? One Josephine Fairley, aka Mrs Craig Sams. How times change.
Jon Ashworth is business features editor at The Times