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Toblerone is undoubtedly an iconic brand in the confectionery market. But is launching a new variant enough to build the brand without increased marketing support? By Matthew Gorman

Kraft is hoping to boost consumer interest in its Toblerone brand with the launch of a fruit and nut version of the iconic chocolate bar in the summer (MW last week). The US food giant and owner of Toblerone will introduce the variant as a permanent flavour but it is still unclear whether the company plans to support the launch of the bar with a marketing campaign.

Yet if the new variant receives no support at launch, it will continue what some marketers describe as a pattern of under investment in one of the company’s most prestigious brands.

First launched in 1908 by a Swiss confectioner in Bern, the original milk chocolate bar – mixed with honey, almond and nougat – now comes in variants that include white, dark, extra dark and praliné-centred. In recent years Kraft has extended the product into the bite-size category with Toblerone One by One.

Despite Kraft’s attempts to diversify the brand, alongside the introduction of smaller, countline bars in recent years, duty-free shops remain the largest stockists of Toblerone. The chocolate brand is the third best seller in duty-free stores after tobacco and alcohol and has remained a confectionery that is traditionally regarded as a gift or special occasion purchase.

Kraft’s confectionery interests in Britain are limited to Toblerone, Terry’s and Côte d’Or, all of which have limited distribution compared with rivals.

Paul Cousins, a director of strategic marketing consultancy Catalyst, and former marketing director of Jacobs, suggests the economies of scale of distribution could be a main reason Kraft under-invests in this brand. Its comparatively limited confectionery range simply does not allow it to strike a better deal on distribution.

“The big problem is, yes, it has several great brands with international sales but distribution is limited compared to Mars or Cadbury,” he says. “To increase reach it would have to invest in distribution.” The increase in sales from improved distribution may not offset the investment made, especially when “Kraft is obviously making money without any effort,” he adds.

Confectionery makes up a relatively small part of Kraft’s $34.4bn (£17.2bn) global revenues, bringing in $3.5bn (£1.75bn) in 2006. Cousins says confectionery is such a small part of Kraft’s portfolio in the UK it is surprising it has retained the brands, especially given its commitment to portraying a healthier image for its products.

Toblerone is one of the most recognisable chocolate brands in the world, sold in more than 120 countries. The distinctive name and packaging have made it instantly recognisable to generations of consumers and since 1994, its unique triangular shape has been protected by law.

The fruit and nut launch could reignite interest in the brand according to Graham Hales, global communications officer at Interbrand. “It is an iconic brand so to a degree it has a certain presence or security within its market,” he says. “But a new variant will bring people back for a trial.”

As a brand, he says, it has huge potential: “It has got such iconic status, it has massive awareness and trust. It’s very distinctive, has a brilliant shape and packaging.” Cousins agrees one of its strengths is its iconic status but says: “It’s very odd to have an iconic brand that’s not pushed more; although they did a little bit of advertising last year to leverage it.”

The company made a rare outing into television advertising last October with an ad created by Ogilvy Advertising showing a young woman in a boat travelling along a river of honey and liquid nougat, while a man in shorts and an Alpine hat chopped up pieces of Toblerone.

So does the launch of a new variant signal renewed investment in one of Switzerland’s best-known exports? Not necessarily, says Cousins, who believes it could simply be a case of “feeding the cash cow,” because “If you don’t feed them they die.”

One food marketer has suggested Kraft may want to ramp up the brand’s profile to increase sales prior to hiving off the brand, although Cousins suggests another reason for introducing fruit and nut could be to vary its taste to appeal to more consumers. “One of the problems with Toblerone is that it has a particularly distinctive taste because of the nougat,” he says. Adding the variant could move the product on from such a distinct consistency and open it up to a wider market.

Toblerone has become one of Switzerland’s most prominent exports. Nine out of ten of the bars head abroad and while its status as an iconic brand is not in doubt, future sales in the UK are much less certain.

Facts and figures

Toblerone 

1867    Jean Tobler opens his first confectionery store in Bern, Switzerland 

1908    Toblerone is created by Jean’s son Theodor Tobler and Theodor’s cousin and production manager Emil Baumann 

1969    A semi-sweet dark Toblerone is produced 

1973    A white version is made available on the Swiss market 

1995    Toblerone Minis go into production 

1996    The first filled version, marketed as Blue Toblerone, launched 

1997    Toblerone Pralinés is produced 

1998    Mini blues are introduced 

2000    The blue and white Tobler logo on the brand’s packaging is replaced with an image of the Matterhorn 

2004    Kraft signs a licensing deal with Unilever to make Toblerone and Côte d’Or chocolate

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