They say Kraft is run by accountants. That’s unfair because -although Philadelphia with Cadbury is known in the trade as PwC - there’s nothing safe about mixing cheese with Britain’s most iconic chocolate confectionery.
For many it was a bridge too far - a fact Kraft recognised when it started advertising its new product under the strapline ‘Chocolate Philly? Don’t be silly.’
Heavy-duty sampling saw Kraft set up stalls in shopping centres across the UK and asking the public to give Philadelphia with Cadbury a try before voting it either “genius” or “mad”.
“Genius won by a landslide,” laughs Philadelphia marketing manager Emma Hodgson. “I think it got 95% of the votes.”
But how are sales performing now the hype has died down? And has it whetted Brits’ appetite for more sweet cheese? The short answer appears to be yes.
“It’s prompted a reappraisal of soft white cheese for everyone,” claims Hodgson. And having shifted 5.5 million units of Philadelphia with Cadbury up to 19 May, with household penetration reaching 15.9% and a repeat rate of 20.5%, Kraft added a Chocolate Philly snack format last month.
Across the pond and on the Continent, Kraft offers Philadelphia in a wider range of sweet flavours, including apricot and dark chocolate. But Hodgson says further sweet UK launches are not on the cards for now. It’s focusing on consolidating its gains: Philly with Cadbury went back on TV in mid-July, and Kraft has made calorie information more prominent. “We will also highlight how it can be used, whether that’s on toast, on a biscuit or to top a fairy cake,” adds Hodgson.
Just as well, says Nigel White at The British Cheese Board, who recalls “an incredibly tasty cherry cream soft cheese” that a UK dairy launched “many years ago”. But no one knew quite what to do with it and it flopped.
However, now that a brand as big as Philadelphia has moved into sweet cheese in the UK, there will be opportunities for other, smaller brands and own label, White believes.
Delamere Dairy says it is already seeing increased interest in its honey-flavoured goats cheese, launched in 2010. “Due to increased listings and a strong performance with Ocado, sales have doubled in the past 12 months and we now have products incorporating the cheese, including a pastry-wrapped version,” says marketing director Pat Brunt.
As for who to target sweet cheeses at, White believes female shoppers are the key demographic. “Women in particular love that combination of creaminess and sweetness.”
Asda, which sells an own-label pineapple soft cheese, concurs. A spokeswoman says the chain is looking at more “own-label soft cheese variants and investigating what they might look and taste like”.
If interest can be sustained, sweet variants could become as normal a sight in the soft cheese fixture as garlic and chives.