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The sweet taste of failure

8 February 2019

I used to eat a lot of chocolate... loved the stuff.

These days, not so much. In fact I haven't scoffed chocolate for probably a year or so and don't miss it one bit.

Parkinson's disease has a very interesting effect on one's eating habits and chocolate became an early victim.

One of the first signs of Parkinson's in many people (including myself) is the loss of the sense of smell. When your sense of smell goes, so does your sense of taste, to a very large degree. Since my own sense of smell stopped working quite some time ago, my choices of food are more about texture and nutritional value than about taste these days.

I can still savour the "bite" of an acidic taste so my evening meal tends to be drenched in lemon juice with lots of beetroot. These foods still give me a little reminder of what taste was all about so I enjoy them. Most other foods are simply bland and tasteless.

Eating has become a necessity rather than a pleasure. Of course that has its upsides and I've had no problems losing 17Kg over the past three months because I only eat when I'm hungry and stop when I'm not hungry -- rather than when I feel "full".

But today's column isn't about my own eating habits, it's about more corporate idiocy and the food choices of a nation.

I'm talking about the ongoing train-wreck that is Cadbury's and their continuing failure in the New Zealand chocolate market.

At one time, everyone (including myself) used to love Cadbury's chocolate. What was not to like? It was smooth, creamy, tasty and pretty good value. By anyone's definition, it was a winner!

What's more, the company employed Kiwi workers to create Kiwi treats and the factory in Dunedin was not only a landmark but a tourist attraction.

It was the perfect business... making strong profits and delivering a product that some people could not get enough of.

Of course Cadbury's was not without competition. The international giant Nestles was king of the white chocolate with its Milky Bar product and it also has a good line of cooking chocolate and other chocolate baking lines. Local company Whittaker's was always there too, quietly selling alongside Cadbury -- but Cadbury was the undeniable biggest seller and most loved chocolate brand in the country.

And then the wheels started falling off the Cadbury's wagon.

Under new ownership, Cadbury decided to close the Dunedin plant and make a whole bunch of Kiwis redundant. Not a good look.

The company had also switched to using cheap palm oil in its recipes, something that not only had a negative effect on the quality and taste of the product but which also harmed the public's perception of the company itself.

Never the less, sales continued and Cadbury was still the number-one chocolate brand in Godzone.

However, I think they may have just lost the crown and I believe that by Christmas, Cadbury's might be an "also ran" in the local chocolate market.

What have they done?

Well in recent weeks they've made a number of very bad decisions in respect to long-enjoyed products that sell under the Cadbury's branding.

First of all they "reformulated" the Roses boxed chocolates. Perhaps their focus groups were all pissed or consisted of agents from Whittaker's because the resulting "new and improved" Roses chocolates were roundly condemned by the market. People hate them and have been strongly critical of the unwanted and unsolicited changes that were made.

Then they announced that their marshmallow Easter eggs were going to become half-eggs.

That's right, instead of being a full egg-shaped confectionery, they're cheaping out by not joining the two halves. Instead you'll get "half eggs". Another lead balloon from Cadbury's.

And now the coup de grĂ¢ce -- Cadbury's are cutting the size of their family blocks of chocolate from 220g to 200g but not lowering the price. In effect, they're actually hiking the price of what has become a rather inferior product.

Whittaker's must be laughing all the way to the bank.

In fact, Whittaker's have used what is perhaps the most unusual marketing strategy I've seen in all my time on the planet. Not for them the kind of massive discounting and marketing campaigns that Cadbury's have embarked on in an attempt to gain market-share. Not for them, a constant whittling away at costs in a way that reduces the quality and taste of their product.

No, all that Whittaker's have had to do is sit quietly and wait -- as Cadbury's has committed economic suicide over the past year or two by repeatedly shooting itself in the feet until the blood loss has been unsustainable.

One only has to read the comments on this story to see the harm that's been done to the Cadbury's brand in recent times.

I've never found Kiwis to be particularly patriotic when it comes to product brands but this time it seems that Whittaker's, by simply providing a good product at a good price with unwavering consistency, have effectively dethroned one of the world's largest food conglomerates from the post of "king of chocolate" in this country.

And, if there's one single lesson to be learned from all of this, if there's one take-away that *every* corporation in the world should take onboard in the wake of Cadbury's fall from f(l)avour it's this: If it works, don't fix it.

We have seen so many instances where corporate entities have decided to change stuff solely for the sake of change. Google/YouTube do it all the time. Facebook have done it repeatedly -- in fact most internet entities are also fixated on fixing stuff that is working just fine and, in the process, pissing off a lot of people by creating new bugs and issues in the process.

Whittaker's have shown the world how it should be done.

Thumbs up Whittaker's... if I could taste your product, I'd go buy some!

What chocolate do readers prefer and why? Have you sworn off Cadbury's in recent times and if so, what was it that caused this?

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