TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards 2017: Why Whittaker’s strategy is the best, bar none

The challenge 

Whittaker’s ambition is to have the world loving world-class chocolate from Porirua. This is the core value of the Whittaker’s brand. It is a beans-to-bar company, controlling the whole manufacturing process, focusing on quality and honesty. It has a character that is bold, generous, inspired and nimble.

The challenge to become a world-class chocolate company has at its heart, a desire to be the best at everything – the processes, the ingredients, the people, etc. This uncompromising approach is epitomised in the communications strategy. Whittaker’s has built a quality story in its advertising through Andrew and Brian Whittaker, Nigella and Beans- to-Bar. The marketing has strengthened this with an online presence, especially on social media where the brand has over 750,000+ loyal brand advocates who share the company’s passion for chocolate every day.

Whittaker’s aims to build long-term sustainable growth that will continue to increase the wealth of the brand, while operating in an extremely competitive market with four major multinational competitors, that have much deeper pockets and significantly more resources. 

The response

The focus on being the best and the ambition to be world-class is demonstrated through its success in investing in quality. Whittaker’s drew insights from other markets such as craft beer, coffee and candles, all of which had success premiumising their categories. The company achieved this by purchasing a Swiss 5 Roll Refiner machine; using Nigella Lawson to promote its Creamy Milk product;
the launch into the premium 100g block market with its New Zealand Artisan Collection; and its innovative collaboration products with L&P, 100s & 1000s, Jelly Tip, K Bar, Toffee Milk and Lewis Road Creamery.

Whittaker’s knew that if it focused on positioning itself at the premium |end of the mass market, it could continue to build on its quality story and achieve market leadership.

The company has continued to find smarter solutions to build the brand long-term as opposed to using short-term pricing to gain market share. The approach has been to continuously invest in the brand through innovation, marketing and quality, not through price promotions.

The chocolate is made using a beans- to-bar process, which means controlling the whole manufacturing process, and therefore the quality of the chocolate, which sets Whittaker’s apart from its competitors.

Directors Andrew and Brian Whittaker have continued to invest in world-class machinery from Europe in order to produce the best quality product.

At the same time, the marketing team, working closely with their advertising and media agencies, have delivered campaigns that communicate the commitment to quality. Partnering with the domestic goddess Nigella Lawson has encouraged consumers to join the switch to New Zealand’s finest chocolate.

Whittaker’s has invested in its people to ensure it has the best talent throughout the business. Several employees have been sent to study at Stanford Business School, leadership development at Mt Eliza, Confectionery Technology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Engineer training at Schubert in Germany.

Innovative thinking was evidenced when Whittaker’s surprised the nation with its first collaboration product, L&P Block. Since then, it’s launched many iconic collaborations including Jelly Tip, K Bar and Lewis Road Chocolate Milk.

Whittaker’s also partnered with local artisan producers to celebrate the wonderful produce New Zealand has to offer with the aim of building a long-term premium positioning. The 10 flavours are all unique; some of them are believed to be a world-first in chocolate. 

The results

Whittaker’s became a market leader in the block chocolate market for the first time in 2015. The volume of Whittaker’s Creamy Milk has increased more than five-fold and is now the number one block in New Zealand. To add to that, Whittaker’s has won New Zealand’s Most Trusted Brand for the past six years (Reader’s Digest) and the Colmar Brunton’s Most Loved Brand for the past five years.

Jelly Tip was the most successful launch in the company’s 121-year history, which resulted in achieving market leadership in the block market for the first time. The brand has continued to maintain this position.

In addition, the New Zealand Artisan Collection has become market leader after just two years. Whittaker’s is now market leader in 100g with a 45.9 percent market share and a 16.2 percent price premium to Lindt. They have transformed the category by providing incremental value sales that have more than doubled since launch.

The company stresses the importance of everyone sharing the vision of being world-class in everything they do. The mantra is: “Always invest in quality, whether it is the product, the marketing, the equipment, or people. Always be bold and try something different—the results will be worth it. Always have the ambition to be the best.” 

Long-Term Marketing Excellence
Campaign Name
New Zealand’s Most Loved & Trusted Brand – Whittaker’s
Company Name
J H Whittaker & Sons
Judge’s comment
“In looking at long-term marketing excellence Whittaker’s is an outstanding example of a business that has consistently stuck to a winning strategy and delivered strong results as a consequence. Its aim is to have the world loving world class chocolate from Porirua New Zealand, and it’s doing an amazing job of delivering on this. While sticking to its plan, it’s also become famous for its innovation and collaborations, and has grown its product range and distribution. Importantly for them marketing isn’t just a programme, it really drives the whole business.”
Marketing Partners
Assignment Group, MBM, Twin Agencies
AA New Zealand, ANZ, Lion, MyTax, Subaru of New Zealand 

  • This story will also appear in the Awards issue of NZ Marketing. 
  • To read more on the TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards 2017, click here.

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