Cadbury owner Mondelez has been left with egg on its face following “shocking” and “outrageous” changes to the Creme Egg brand (to quote the national press).
The first - that Creme Egg six-packs had been reduced to five-packs without (in the case of many retailers) a corresponding price cut – was broken by The Grocer on Friday.
Then came news that US business Mondelez had also changed the recipe – and had stopped using Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate for the shell. Mondelez insists the egg has never been flagged up as made with Cadbury Dairy Milk, and that a range of chocolates had been used throughout the brand’s 43-year history.
“The fundamentals of the Cadbury Creme Egg remain exactly the same – delicious milk chocolate and the unique crème centre that consumers love,” says the supplier. “Cadbury Creme Egg now uses a standard, traditional Cadbury milk chocolate for its shell.”
It’s hard to imagine Mondelez was prepared for the reaction to such changes, but January is a notoriously quiet time for news and the media have embraced the story with abandon.
It made the editorial column of today’s The Sun and, given The Sun’s outrage, you’d have thought Mondelez had announced it was sponsoring the No More Page Three campaign: “They may have messed with Man United and got away with it. They might have foisted institutions such as high school proms and Halloween on us. But changing our Creme Eggs is the final straw. If the Yanks think they can meddle with them and escape the consequences – they must be cracked.”
Even media institutions you might expect to rise above such in issue couldn’t resist: “Nation in shock” screamed The Independent, as it reported on a “bilateral attack on the glory of Easter”.
And the news has already gone global – making the web pages of Time magazine and, my personal fave, Australia’s Toowoomba Chronicle, which declared “finally, the Poms are whinging about something important.”
Mondelez can congratulate itself on having a brand so loved that it can garner such a response. Little wonder sales have risen 5% year on year to £55.3m – well ahead of the overall confectionery market [Nielsen 52w/e 11 October]. And it’s hard to imagine the publicity will do too much harm to the brand in the long term.
But its reputation may not be totally unscathed.
Reducing volume rather than increasing price is totally understandable. But rolling out the five-packs in packaging similar to their predecessor was asking for trouble, even though they carry a flash stating ‘five packs’. No-one wants to feel they are being ripped off – and posts on the brand’s Facebook page suggest that’s how some shoppers feel after finding their purchase was one egg short of a six-pack.
There are also plenty of complaints on the Facebook page about the taste of the eggs this year – and brands tamper with a much-loved recipes at their peril (New Coke, anyone?).
But for The Grocer’s news desk, which would likely grind to a halt each winter without its Creme Egg fix, the packaging is the bigger issue.
“As a Creme egg addict of many a long year, I can’t say I had noticed any major change in the flavour,” said news editor Ronan Hegarty. “However, I can’t say I’m happy paying as much for a five-pack of eggs this year as I paid for six last year.”