EXCLUSIVE: The battle for global chocolate dominance between the likes of Cadbury, Nestle and Hershey is set to melt on to the small screen after Fable Pictures, the British production company run by The Crown and Suffragette producer Faye Ward, optioned Deborah Cadbury’s book Chocolate Wars.

The Sony-backed production company, which was started by Ward in 2016, is looking to turn the book into an international TV drama. It has partnered with The Indian Detective and Transporter writer Smita Bhide and director Tom Harper, who has directed Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne’s The Aeronauts and Fable’s forthcoming Julie Walters-fronted Wild Rose, on the project. Harper, who also worked on BBC drama War & Peace, will exec produce alongside Ward and Hannah Farrell.

The book, originally published in 2010 by Harper Press, tells the story of the invention of the chocolate bar and the battle between three British families – Cadbury, Rowntree and Fry – American entrepreneur Milton Hershey and European firms Nestle and Lindt. It focuses on the British Quaker dynasties that fought to win control of the Victorian chocolate industry in a story packed with romance, betrayal and rivalry. It tells how in the early nineteenth century Richard Tapper Cadbury sent his son, John, to London to study cocoa and how within a generation, John’s sons, Richard and George, had created a chocolate company to rival Fry and Rowntree, their European competitors Lindt and Nestle, and Milton Hershey and Forrest Mars in America.

The drama series will draw on Cadbury’s historical book, which charts over 150 years of Cadbury history, blending historical fact and fiction and telling the story of two very different brothers George and Richard Cadbury. It will use the chocolate industry in the late 19th Century as a microcosm to explore the industrial revolution and the roots of capitalism as we know it today. It is envisaged as an international saga that takes viewers on a journey from the thriving industrial powerhouse of Victorian Birmingham to the cocoa plantations of Trinidad to the sweeping cornfields of Pennsylvania and to Switzerland where Lindt and Nestle were growing small empires of their own.

Fable Pictures is currently working on two feature films; Wild Rose, about a musician from Glasgow that dreams of becoming a Nashville star and features Jessie Buckley and Sophie Okenedo alongside Walters, and Steve Coogan and John C Reilly’s Stan & Ollie. The former will launch at the Toronto International Film Festival and the latter, which is directed by Jon Baird, will have its world premiere at the BFI London Film Festival. Both will be released in 2019.

“This is an evocative piece of history that I have always been intrigued by. I love that it still continues to give us pleasures and comfort in our everyday lives today,” said Fable’s Ward.  “It’s the enduring, complex conflict between the families that really give the show its heart and soul, and we’re thrilled to have Smita and Tom on board to bring this unique story to life on screen.”