The chocolate overdose

Brookside is an interesting chocolate concept from Hershey’s with fruit infusions, but could learn much from the Cadbury branding on Oreo biscuits


There is merit in acknowledging the parentage of your brand. Seeking blessings may in fact guarantee future success.
There is merit in acknowledging the parentage of your brand. Seeking blessings may in fact guarantee future success.

It is rumoured that one of the side-effects of demonetisation was the collapse of the impulse category, especially chocolates and soft drinks. Imagine the following dialogue and you will know why this may be true:

“Mom, I am feeling tired (I did my test well / I behaved well in school/ I did not spoil my clothes / I ate the lunch you packed for me). Can I buy a chocolate. The new one? Please.”

“Most certainly, my dear. But not today. You see, mom does not have enough cash, rupee notes. I told you yesterday, I need the rupee notes to buy milk and vegetables (with a smile)!”

Many a mom must have used the excuse of shortage of small notes to get their kids off the chocolate treat for a day, or more.

However, if you look at the Indian chocolate landscape, you are bound to believe that the floodgates have suddenly opened in the category. demonetisation is just a short-term black swan event that none of these chocolate pioneers could have predicted, to be fair.

Here is a quick list of new brands that have been launched / relaunched in the last few months/weeks:

- Brookside is an interesting chocolate concept from Hershey’s with fruit infusions

- Alpino is the premium brand from Nestle (to take on Ferrero Rocher?)

- Fabelle is the super-premium brand from ITC

- LuvIt is a popular range of chocolate offerings (from A. Mahendran of Good Knight fame)

In addition to these, Cadbury, or should I say Mondelez, has rolled out a whole slew of new products to join in the feeding frenzy.

It is to be noted that in addition to Cadbury, Nestle and Amul, the last few years have seen the rise of Ferrero with its superbly executed, egg-shaped mega-hit Kinder Joy. The new entrants are bound to have been inspired by the success of Kinder Joy, with a market now estimated to be Rs500 crore.

Coming to the new launches, which of these will survive (Alpino is really Alpino V2) and which will bite the dust is difficult to predict, but I want to point out some interesting scenarios.

Brookside is a brand from Hershey’s, but strangely, the brand’s packaging has no mention of Hershey’s, up front. I wonder why the company did not want to exploit the advantages a known brand name like Hershey’s can add during the critical launch phase. It is possible that the company may have felt that Indian consumers are sophisticated enough to recognize that Hershey’s is a liquid chocolate brand and Brookside is a premium offering with fruits that may not benefit from an overt Hershey’s association.

If only they had studied the success of Oreo, they may have learnt some interesting lessons. Oreo is a 100-year-old brand that is the largest selling cookie in the world. When Kraft bought the Cadbury business globally, they did realize that Cadbury had a huge market presence in India. They decided to use the Cadbury system to launch Oreo and other legacy Kraft brands in countries where they had no presence (you should remember that General Foods had made several attempts to enter India, with little success).

Cadbury knew that Oreo faced intense competition from the trinity of the Indian biscuit market—Britannia, Parle and ITC. All these companies offered very well-packaged cream biscuits and were very well distributed too.

Oreo, in its classic form, is a chocolate-flavoured biscuit with a vanilla filling in the middle. The brand had been built with the iconic campaign ‘Twist. Lick. Dunk’ and was almost sold as a way to get kids to drink their milk.

When the smart team at Cadbury was getting ready to launch Oreo, I am sure they were wondering how to get past the trinity in the biscuit aisle. Cadbury was the King Kong of chocolates but had no valid entry ticket into the biscuit shelves. It is here that they must have figured out that putting the Cadbury logo on an Oreo pack will be a win-win. Oreo would gain instant credibility from consumers who did not know of it, while Cadbury would gain a larger-than-chocolate aura, which would do it immense good.

Oreo’s launch was an outstanding success, with the brand racing ahead of well-entrenched rivals. I suspect the addition of the Cadbury logo on the front of the pack played a key role in the ready acceptance of the new brand.

Coming back to Brookside, I wonder if they had studied the way you need to play with brands in order to gain consumer trust in this country. Oreo sports the Cadbury logo only in one country in the world, to the best of my knowledge. And for a good reason. Brookside too could have benefited from the Hershey’s endorsement.

Maybe it is not too late for them to do Brookside V2 with a bold Hershey’s endorsement. They will not be the first brand to lean on a legacy brand to get a leg up. For instance, Tanishq added ‘A Tata Product’ to its signage almost five years after the initial launch.

In a country where you pray every month to the departed souls of your father, grandfather and great grandfather, there is merit in acknowledging the parentage of your brand. Seeking blessings may in fact guarantee future success. Amen.

Ambi M.G. Parameswaran is brand strategist and founder, Brand-Building.com. He will take stock of consumers, brands and advertising every month. The views expressed are personal.

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