In consumerism, nothing is sacrosanct. Not even a Swiss institution like Toblerone. Mondelez, owner of the famed airport impulse buy, has drawn the ire of the chocolate crazed.
It cut back the size of two versions of the distinctively peaked chocolate bar because of higher costs. Basically, the gaps between the triangles are larger and there are fewer of them — triangles, that is. This is tinkering, if you will, with a bar that has had the same shape for more than a century. It essentially shaves 10% off the product. But with Brexit, the Marmite shortage and then Trump, it was an incursion too far. A social media revolt ensued, with Toblerone fans ranting about treachery. "Peakgate" was born.
I’ll enlighten you. As posted on Toblerone’s Facebook page:
"This totally screws up the Toblerone experience" — Selvi Saniye.
"The shape should make it easier for you guys to stick it where the sun don’t shine, being smaller it might not hurt as much" — Jonathon Hoyle.
And, my favourite: "[sic] DON’T CARE WHAT YOU SAY TOBLERONE CHANGE IT BACK" — Leeann Turner.
The weight change affects the 170g (sold in the UK) and 400g milk chocolate bars (sold across Europe), which have been reduced to 150g and 360g. The official line from Nasdaq-listed Mondelez is that it carries costs for as long as possible, and to ensure Toblerone remains on-shelf, is affordable and retains the triangular shape, it has had to reduce the weight of the two bars. It’s the classic cost engineering cop-out. C’mon, they’re reconstruction pros — they changed the recipe of Cadbury Creme Egg and also rounded the edges of Dairy Milk bars. Both moves were met with fury.
Mondelez has denied the change has anything to do with the UK vote to leave the EU. It did admit that the exchange rate was not favourable and also noted that fallout from a weakening of the Swiss franc early last year caused a spike in production costs.
You can’t blame British consumers for "going there". The pound’s post-Brexit slump has resulted in a raft of price increases on big-name consumer products, from chips (or crisps, as the Brits say) to fish fingers. The price of cocoa, a key ingredient in chocolate (duh), hit its highest level since 1977 after the Brexit vote.
Instead of simply raising prices (which mostly puts people off buying), Toblerone’s fewer peaks and wider troughs are just a bit of retail razzle-dazzle. It allows the group to reduce the contents of its product without changing the packaging. The result is a product that looks, well, the same and costs the same.
This is why people are angry. They are being offered less for the same price. It’s called "shrinkflation." Rising input costs have resulted in snack brands becoming stingier with portion sizes in the quest for margin.
In case you need to feign chocolate prowess at a dinner party, dear reader, pay attention: this chocolate was created in 1908 by Theodor Tobler. He combined his family name with torrone, the Italian word for honey and almond nougat.
According to The New York Times, the Matterhorn in the Alps is said to be the inspiration behind the peak-shaped bar, but Tobler’s sons have said their father was inspired by a line of dancers at the Folies Bergère cabaret in Paris.
Disclaimer: I am fond of Toblerone. I almost always buy a bar at duty-free as a gift. I may or may not be predisposed to reaching into overhead storage and opening it midflight.