Glass and a third full? Cadbury breaks a bit more off its blocks, Whittaker’s holds firm

Hear that? It’s the sound of chocolate lovers nation-wide sharpening their pitchforks after Cadbury announced on its Facebook page that it will be downsizing its family-sized block—again.

Yesterday morning, Mondelez-owned Cadbury posted a message to its followers beginning with the foreboding words: “A change we’d like to tell you about…”. And the change was this: Cadbury will be doing away with ten percent of its 220g family block, which is the equivalent of a single row, due to the increasing costs of core ingredients. 

In 2009 it reduced its family block from 250 grams to 200 grams and replaced cocoa butter with cheaper, environmentally unfriendly palm oil, which didn’t go down to well, to put it lightly.

After a barrage of complaints Cadbury apologised, stopped using palm oil and eventually gave consumers a bit more chocolate back (20g) in 2013.

At the time, Cadbury announced that it was giving consumers “more chocolate for the same price” (as well as changing the pip shape and the packaging) and ex-general manager of marketing Iaan Buchanan said the company had learned from the mistakes of 2009. 

“We’ve got so many manufacturers who are trying to put the price up, or downweight. So this is a generous, powerful thing for us to do for New Zealanders … For Cadbury, one of the brand values that gets talked about internally is ‘generosity’. And this is a very demonstrable way to show that.”

Things have changed, however, and Cadbury chief executive Jacqueline Evison says in this instance it was either lose one row of chocolate, or increase the price.

“We had a choice to make about whether we increased the price we recommended to our retailers or reduced the size of the block and we’ve taken the choice to reduce the size of the block to make sure it stays an affordable treat.”

Cadbury spokeswoman Adelle Keely told Stuff :the company understood that people would not like receiving less chocolate for their money, but higher manufacturing costs meant it had to make a choice”. 

Whittaker’s has certainly profited from the PR troubles of its main rival, with its market share jumping from 22 percent to 32 percent in the space of a year during ‘The Troubles’ of 2009. Its retail sales in supermarkets and petrol stations rose more than 60 percent from $17 million to $27.6 million between 2009-2010.

In 2013, The Listener reported that Whittaker’s was on its way to leading the chocolate market holding 38 percent of chocolate tablet sales, while Cadbury’s market share was shrinking. And to rub it in further, Reader’s Digest announced Whittaker’s as being New Zealand’s most trusted brand for the third year in a row last year, a title Cadbury once held for six years until it lost out to Wattie’s in 2010. 

Marketing manager Holly Whittaker confirmed it wouldn’t be changing the size of its chocolate blocks anytime soon, but did mention the possibility of a price-lift.

“Whittaker’s strategy is to maintain premium quality and value to the consumer. We have a policy of better before cheaper. Our focus on improving product quality has proved successful with our increasing market share.”

Cadbury’s yo-yoing size isn’t the only stoush the company has found itself in in recent times. It lost a court case against Whittaker’s last year over an application to trademark the name “Berry Forest”, which Cadbury’s saw as being too similar to its own “Black Forest”. And earlier this year it was revealed that Cadbury Creme Egg wasn’t being made from Dairy Milk chocolate (and, as they are now imported from the UK, that impact local egg lovers).  

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