Leader comment: Toblerone face a mountain of trouble

Toblerone's distinctive appearance makes it very difficult to change, without losing some of its appeal.
Toblerone's distinctive appearance makes it very difficult to change, without losing some of its appeal.
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The social media reaction to changes to the much-loved Toblerone bar could have the manufacturers searching frantically for reverse gear.

The level of outrage may be over the top on a day when the world held its breath over who would be the next president of the United States, but the strength of the reaction is impossible to ignore. Instead of resembling a mountain range, which the triangular bar of chocolate was designed to represent, the increased gap between each peak has seen the new-look bar described as a “toothless comb”.

We should have some sympathy for Mondelez International. A reduction in the size of confectionary is hardly a daring new departure, and the size and shape of just about every bar of chocolate has varied over the years. Usually, this is done with subtlety, with a slight reduction in the overall size of the product. Packaging can also help to create the impression the product has hardly changed.

The difference here is that what Mondelez has done is fundamental, and impossible to disguise. Reducing the number of peaks on each bar looks like a swindle because visually, there is no getting away from the fact that less is being offered than before. And the design of the bar is as much a unique selling point as the taste. Tamper with that formula at your peril.

Having said that, Mondelez have stated that the cost-cutting move was needed to ensure that Toblerone “remains on the shelf”. In other words, the cost of production set against revenue means its future was in doubt.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if the backlash over the new-look bar created enough publicity to spur the required demand? A cynic might suggest that, but after yesterday’s furore, Mondelez have a mountain to climb.