Wednesday, 26 March 2014

An open letter to Mr Cadbury

After the success of my last open letter, which was followed by an immediate opinion poll boost for the 'Yes' campaign in Scotland, I thought I would have another go:

Dear Mr Cadbury, also Messrs Walkers, Mars etc

I have been consuming your products for over 40 years now. I hope to have another 30 years before they kill me, so I reckon I'm well within your target demographic. I'm also incredibly brand-loyal, eschewing cheap copycat products for yours, and, when the mood takes me, will stop at almost nothing to procure my favourite snack at almost any price. So your dream punter in many ways. Lots of my fellow birders are too: I've been on long distance twitches in cars full of blokes who consume little else. The problem is that just lately I've been buying my usual treats and it's left me, well, dis-satisfied. There are two possible explanations for this:

1. Over the four decades I've been buying your stuff, I've got a lot bigger, and by a quirk of perception my chocolate bars and crisp packets just appear a lot smaller.

2. In a misguided attempt to remain price competitive you've been reducing the amount I get for the same money on the sly and hoping I won't notice.

I appreciate that times are hard, that you've been real busy with all those mega-mergers and wotnot, and that your pre-tax profits have shrivelled to mere telephone numbers in recent years as a result. And I'm equally sure you are motivated by nothing more than a desire to keep me fit by feeding me smaller amounts of unhealthy food whilst trousering an increasing proportion of my disposable income so that I can't fritter it away on yet more unhealthy food. I'm touched, really.

But clearly there is a dearth of ideas at work in your business plans, so here's a few to chew/suck/crunch on:
  • Cut out some of that unnecessary packaging instead of the actual product. My Twix today was like a couple of skinny arms in a wizard's sleeve. Apparently it's down to 50g from 58g then 62g a few years ago. If the trend continues I calculate by 2020 I'll be leaving the newsagent having paid 59p for an empty bag.
  • Save money on expensive advertising campaigns. Half of it only ends up in the noses of over-paid creatives so you'll be helping the war on drugs too.
  • Just be honest and if the price of cocoa goes up, tell us you're going to charge us more. You could even drop the price when it goes down. Even energy companies have cottoned on to that, and they're really unpopular.
On second thoughts forget it. Stuff your shrinking chocolate and your stingy snacks. I'm going to take up fruit. Yes, I'm that angry.

Nothing to do with birds or chocolate. But he's licking his lips at least. Brown Hare at Elmley in Kent, taken in February.
Post Script: while conducting the usual in-depth research for this post I came across this fascinating post on a foodie blog. It contains a statement from a Mars Chocolate UK spokesperson when challenged on the shrinking size of a Twix. It bears repeating: “As part of our commitment to promote responsible consumption, and as a signatory of the Department of Health’s Responsibility Deal calorie reduction programme, we made a pledge to ensure that all of our single-serve chocolate products would contain no more than 250 calories per portion by the end of 2013.  To meet this commitment, after taking product reformulation as far as we can for now without compromising the great taste of the product, we have reduced the portion size of our TWIX bar to bring down the calorie content.” So what I thought was a smart-alec jibe about hiding behind concern for public health to sell me less for the same price is actually true. If I hadn't just done so, I'd say you couldn't make it up.

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