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11 Sweet Facts About Cadbury

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Leon Neal/Getty

To sugar-lovers stateside, Cadbury is best known as the maker of the cream-filled eggs that appear in stores each spring for Easter. But their full lineup of sweets includes close to 100 products that are beloved in the UK and around the world. Here are 11 decadent facts about the candy brand.

1. IT STARTED AS A DRINKING CHOCOLATE BUSINESS.

Cadbury advertisement from 1885. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Before it was an international corporation, Cadbury got its start as a humble grocery store. In 1824, John Cadbury opened a shop in Birmingham, England where he sold, among other goods, cocoa and drinking chocolate he ground by hand. The beverage was initially marketed as a health drink, and it was often served with lentils or barley mixed in. He opened up a full-fledged chocolate factory in 1841, and by the following year he was selling 11 types of cocoa and 16 varieties of drinking chocolate. Solid “eating chocolate” only came about years later as a way for the company to utilize the cocoa butter left over from the cocoa-making process.

2. CADBURY MADE CHOCOLATE FOR QUEEN VICTORIA.

The Cadbury company was just a few decades old when it was deemed fit for royalty. John Cadbury and his brother and business partner, Benjamin, received a Royal Warrant to assume the role of “manufacturers of cocoa and chocolate to Queen Victoria” in 1855. Today the company continues to hold a Royal Warrant from Queen Elizabeth II.

3. THE COMPANY INVENTED THE HEART-SHAPED CHOCOLATE BOX.

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Heart-shaped chocolate boxes are nearly as old as the commercialization of Valentine’s Day itself, and that’s thanks to Richard Cadbury. By the mid-19th century, exchanging gifts and cards with loved ones had become a popular practice around the holiday. Chocolate became part of the tradition by way of Cadbury’s romantic chocolate boxes. Richard, son of company founder John Cadbury, had the brilliant idea to package his confections in heart-shaped boxes embellished with cupids and roses in 1861. Customers could use the fancy boxes to store keepsakes long after the contents were consumed.

4. “RATION CHOCOLATE” WAS SOLD DURING WORLD WAR II.

Like many European businesses, Cadbury was forced to make sacrifices during the Second World War. When the British government banned fresh milk in 1941, the company stopped production on its Dairy Milk bars. Ration Chocolate, made from dried skim milk powder, was released as a cheap substitute.

5. THE FIRST CADBURY EGG APPEARED IN THE 19TH CENTURY.

Cadbury factory workers decorating Easter eggs in 1932. Image credit: Getty

Cadbury’s connection to chocolate eggs traces back to its early history. While experimenting with moldable chocolate formulas, Cadbury came up with a hollow Easter egg in 1875. The first iterations had a plain, dark chocolate exterior with sugar-coated chocolate drops filling the inside. In 1923, Cadbury debuted a cream-filled chocolate egg, but it wasn’t until 1971 that the Cadbury Creme Egg we know today, with its white-and-yellow fondant center, became an official part of the lineup.

6. CADBURY WON—AND LOST—THE TRADEMARK TO THEIR SIGNATURE PURPLE.

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Cadbury first adopted its signature purple packaging in 1914 as a tribute to Queen Victoria’s favorite color. After a four-year legal battle with Nestle (which uses a similar shade in their Wonka candy line), Cadbury won the right to trademark Pantone 2685C in 2012. But their victory was short-lived—Nestle successfully appealed the ruling the following year and “cadbury purple” became free for all to use once more.

7. ROALD DAHL WAS INSPIRED BY THE COMPANY.

Years before he became a world-famous author, Roald Dahl taste-tested sweets for Cadbury. The company sent shipments of their chocolates to Dahl’s boyhood school for students to sample and the experience sparked the young boy's imagination. When writing about his inspiration for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in a draft of a speech, he recalled:

“It was then I realised that inside this great Cadbury’s chocolate factory there must an inventing room, a secret place where fully-grown men and women in white overalls spent all their time playing around with sticky boiling messes, sugar and chocs, and mixing them up and trying to invent something new and fantastic.”

His musings came in handy years later when he sat down to write his most famous novel.

8. THE IDEA FOR FLAKE CAME FROM A FACTORY WORKER.

yum9me via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Flake, the crumbly bar made from thin layers of chocolate, is one of the most unique products in the Cadbury family. Rather than being dreamt up by a recipe developer, it was discovered by an employee by mistake. One day a worker responsible for filling the molds noticed something unusual about the excess chocolate spilling over the sides. The ribbons of liquid chocolate cooled into light, flaky bars quite different from anything else on the market. The company ran with the concept, and in 1920 the Cadbury Flake bar made its commercial debut.

9. CADBURY PRODUCTS ARE SOLD IN 40 COUNTRIES.

Cadbury may forever be associated with its British home, but the brand extends far beyond the UK. Their chocolates can be found in countries across the globe including Thailand, Argentina, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia [PDF]. Regional specialties include Cadbury Oreo Eggs sold in Canada and Cadbury Glow that’s marketed as a Diwali gift in India.

10. THE CHOCOLATE TASTES DIFFERENT IN THE U.S.

Matt Cardy/Getty

If Cadbury chocolate tastes better in its British homeland than it does in the United States, that’s not in your head—products sold under the same label are made with different ingredients in the two countries. The UK product is made from milk, sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, vegetable fat, and emulsifiers, while U.S.-made Cadbury chocolate also includes lactose, soy lecithin, natural and artificial flavorings, and lists sugar as the number one ingredient. Unfortunately for Cadbury purists, finding the real stuff in the States is next to impossible. Hershey, the manufacturer of the products sold in U.S. markets, forced a ban on British Cadbury imports in 2015.

11. CADBURY WORLD HAS BEEN OPEN SINCE 1990.

Paul Ellis/Getty

Fans in search of a more immersive look at the company and its history can visit Cadbury World in Birmingham, UK. The space features over a dozen interactive zones, including a 4D chocolate adventure, a chocolate-making exhibition, and a full-sized replica of the street where John Cadbury opened his first shop in 1824. If the original location is too far out of your way, Cadbury also runs a sister attraction in New Zealand.

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technology
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Health
One Bite From This Tick Can Make You Allergic to Meat
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We like to believe that there’s no such thing as a bad organism, that every creature must have its place in the world. But ticks are really making that difficult. As if Lyme disease wasn't bad enough, scientists say some ticks carry a pathogen that causes a sudden and dangerous allergy to meat. Yes, meat.

The Lone Star tick (Amblyomma americanum) mostly looks like your average tick, with a tiny head and a big fat behind, except the adult female has a Texas-shaped spot on its back—thus the name.

Unlike other American ticks, the Lone Star feeds on humans at every stage of its life cycle. Even the larvae want our blood. You can’t get Lyme disease from the Lone Star tick, but you can get something even more mysterious: the inability to safely consume a bacon cheeseburger.

"The weird thing about [this reaction] is it can occur within three to 10 or 12 hours, so patients have no idea what prompted their allergic reactions," allergist Ronald Saff, of the Florida State University College of Medicine, told Business Insider.

What prompted them was STARI, or southern tick-associated rash illness. People with STARI may develop a circular rash like the one commonly seen in Lyme disease. They may feel achy, fatigued, and fevered. And their next meal could make them very, very sick.

Saff now sees at least one patient per week with STARI and a sensitivity to galactose-alpha-1, 3-galactose—more commonly known as alpha-gal—a sugar molecule found in mammal tissue like pork, beef, and lamb. Several hours after eating, patients’ immune systems overreact to alpha-gal, with symptoms ranging from an itchy rash to throat swelling.

Even worse, the more times a person is bitten, the more likely it becomes that they will develop this dangerous allergy.

The tick’s range currently covers the southern, eastern, and south-central U.S., but even that is changing. "We expect with warming temperatures, the tick is going to slowly make its way northward and westward and cause more problems than they're already causing," Saff said. We've already seen that occur with the deer ticks that cause Lyme disease, and 2017 is projected to be an especially bad year.

There’s so much we don’t understand about alpha-gal sensitivity. Scientists don’t know why it happens, how to treat it, or if it's permanent. All they can do is advise us to be vigilant and follow basic tick-avoidance practices.

[h/t Business Insider]

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