About-face means more choc in block

CHARLES ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 19/05/2013

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Cadbury has fired the latest salvo in the Kiwi chocolate wars, backtracking on an earlier decision to cut the size of their family range of chocolate blocks.

Tomorrow the company will unveil a new-look chocolate block that is 10 per cent bigger and features larger, rounder pieces. The 200g block will be increased to 220g for the same price.

Managing director Alastair de Raadt said Cadbury had an "ongoing process of listening to consumers" and, unsurprisingly, those consumers said they wanted a bigger chocolate bar.

Four years ago the company faced an angry backlash from customers when it cut the size of its family chocolate blocks by 50g and substituted cocoa butter with cheaper palm oil.

De Raadt said at the time that Cadbury faced a decade of rising cocoa prices and sugar prices. The two options were either to put prices up or make a smaller block.

The company had now installed manufacturing equipment that made it possible to create a larger block at the same price. However, it could not economically put it all the way back to the pre-2009 size, de Raadt said.

He did acknowledge that the decision was flavoured somewhat by the increasing popularity of local rival Whittaker's, which last year snatched the title of New Zealand's most trusted brand. Cadbury lost that honour - held for the previous six years - in 2010.

According to Leatherhead Food Research report, confectionary sales in New Zealand were worth $557 million last year - up from $494m in 2008.

Chocolate was the biggest chunk of the sector with 58 per cent of that total. However, de Raadt was not too concerned with the perceived chocolate war with rival Whitaker's, which claims to have a 33 per cent share of the chocolate block market.

Even if Cadbury had lost some market share in 2009, he believed it had bounced back.

If you focused all your efforts on what other companies were doing you lose direction, he said, claiming the latest move was more about innovation than jousting.

"When that piece is a little bit bigger and more rounded it melts better in your mouth."

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