A dead lion is not the real, sticky issue facing golden syrup - Stephen Jardine

The brand refresh at Tate & Lyle won’t be enough to keep the shopper sweet, writes Stephen Jardine.

In a part of London that has changed beyond recognition, something remains the same. By the side of the Docklands Light Railway, in an area known as Silvertown, stands a factory which resembles a Victorian workplace. That’s because it is.

Tate & Lyle’s processing plant was built in 1882 to take sugar from the nearby Thames Refinery and refine it into other products. Think Soft Brown Sugar and Demerara Sugar but don’t forget Golden Syrup. Walking past the factory you can smell the distinctive aroma of a product that remains a favourite with cooks up and down the land. From flapjacks to steamed puddings, golden syrup is a vital ingredient. It transforms a mundane bowl of porridge to the special.

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The secret recipe has remained unchanged for 140 years. With every other product seeking to reduce sugar content to meet health targets, golden syrup is unashamed to be what it is.

It literally does what it says on the tin. But perhaps not for much longer.

This week Tate & Lyle announced a rebrand which will see the distinctive Golden Syrup logo dropped from some of it’s packaging. Out goes the classic image of a dead lion being swamped by bees and in comes the kind of modern swirl artificial intelligence believes is a logo.

The company says it wants to ‘refresh it’s appeal to modern shopper’s. Based on other industry rebranding exercises, that is usually marketing speak for losing a whole lot of sales.

The issue seems to be the religious views of Abram Lyle, a Scot, who started the business. He turned to the Old Testament story of Samson killing a lion for inspiration for the logo and the strapline “out of the strong came forth sweetness”.

According to a professor of Marketing at London Business School, the fact that the branding came from religious beliefs could put it in “an exclusionary space” if it was to go viral on TikTok.

Really? The idea that young bake off hopefuls across the country are ready to boycott Golden Syrup because Abram Lyle read the bible 150 years ago is more nuts than the

world’s biggest Pecan Pie.

You can be certain no one has contacted Tate & Lyle and asked them to change their logo because of it’s religious origins.

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Instead, yet another company is trying to do what they think is ‘the right thing’ without really understanding what consumers want. People who buy Golden Syrup want it to be

sweet, sticky and reminds them of childhood. Nostalgia sells.

In this case, the manufacturers should have known better than anyone. Golden Syrup was in the Guinness Book of World Record as the world’s oldest unchanged brand packaging. That is quite a reputation to dent just to refresh the appeal.

In any case, what the logo looks like should be the least of their worries. Golden Syrup is absolutely delicious but it’s also as far removed from avocados, soy milk lattes and vegan

smoothies as it is possible to get.

The biggest threat might not be a brand identity from the past but a future society where more and more people focus on good eating and sugar is increasingly seen as bad.

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