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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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When new is worse than old

14 May 2019

Hands up everyone who remembers the timeless Kiwi chocolate classics?

I'm talking about pineapple lumps, Jaffas, smooth, creamy "a pint and a half in every block" Cadbury's chocolate blocks and such.

Yes, at one time, Cadbury's was one of NZ's most trusted brands and they fed the ever-growing taste for chocolate-based confectionery throughout the country. In fact, the name Cadbury's was synonymous with lovely chocolate.

And then something happened.

Expensive cocoa butter was replaced with palm oil.

Seriously? Chocolate that kills orangutans? Who'd buy that?

Lots of Kiwis said "no thanks" to the recipe change that Cadbury's foisted on the Kiwi public -- but many others said "no worries" and kept on buying.

Next up, Cadbury's decided that New Zealand was no longer a viable place to make its choc delights so it shut down the long-running factory in Dunedin and left a whole bunch of folk redundant.

Now that went down like a chocolate-coated lead balloon, meaning that even more Kiwis swore-off the Cadbury's product.

Then, in even more outrageous moves, they messed around with the successful formulas of traditional treats such as the Roses brand boxed chocolates, Creme Eggs and even the good old-fashioned marshmallow easter-eggs that we'd enjoyed for so many years.

This was the final straw for a huge swathe of the choc-eating Kiwi public, many of whom had already discovered the delights of Whittaker's "made in NZ by Kiwis" products.

Now I don't eat a lot of chocolate these days, mainly because the Parkinson's has all but totally removed my sense of taste -- as a side-effect of the loss of smell. To me, most chocolate is indistinguishable from soap -- just a soft slimy stuff that melts in your mouth to no real effect.

However, I do recall that when I could taste chocolate, Whittaker's was good -- but not universally so. Their peanut slabs were excellent and their dark-chocolate peppermint likewise. Unfortunately, I never really enjoyed their plain chocolate, nor their equivalent of Cadbury's Caramello. Whittaker's dark chocolate also can't hold a candle to Lindt's offerings in this sector of the market.

My only indulgence these days tends to be a square or two of the dark Ghana 70% cocoa chocolate with a glass of wine -- since I can still slightly sense bitter and acidic tastes. It seems that the acidity of a sparkling wine combined with the bitterness of the dark chocolate produces enough taste-stimulation to be discernible by my rapidly atrophying grey matter ;-)

But back to Cadbury's...

You'd think that any half-sensible company, faced with such huge resentment and rejection by almost the entire population of a country might reconsider some of their formula changes don't you?

Why not bring back the original Creme Egg? Why not make marshmallow eggs that aren't flat on one side? Why not produce an "indulgent" line of chocolate that leaves out the palm oil and goes back to using cocoa butter? How about "Roses Traditional"? That's what I'd do.

Sadly, such imagination and clarity of thought appears totally missing in the new Cadbury's so I expect that even though some of their products are not totally up to scratch, Whittaker's will continue to grow its market and its place in the heart of Kiwis.

However, Cadbury's isn't the only company to mess with success and suffer the consequences.

Some time ago, Nestle decided to alter the formula for its incredibly popular Milo product. The result was an utter disaster.

People hated the new formula and sales tanked.

To their credit, Nestle has now seen the light and claims that it is reverting back to the original recipe for the product, in the obvious hope that this will boost sales back to former levels.

What a shame that Cadbury's isn't watching this.

The history of marketing is littered with failed attempts to "improve" products, especially food products. Does anyone remember "New Coke" for example?

When will chocolate and software/online companies learn the merits of the age-old saying "if it works, don't fix it"?

What's your favourite chocolate and why?

What other similar failures of "improved" products can you recall?

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