When the history of capitalism is written, November 8 2016 will deserve a footnote. No, not the date the 45th president of the United States was elected, but the day Mondelez, the giant US confectionery company, changed the shape of the Toblerone bar.
This may sound hyperbolic. But the altering of Toblerone’s distinctive silhouette is the latest act of vandalism perpetrated by Mondelez on its stable of chocolate bars, and symptomatic of a wider malaise within some of the great consumer companies operating within Britain, many of which seem hell-bent on destroying the very foundations of what made them such enviable profit-making machines in the first place.
First, Toblerone. It is a slightly over-sweet, milk chocolate bar with bits of nougat bits. So far, so tasty. But what makes Toblerone distinctive is its prism shape, a row of chunky triangles that require fingers of steel to snap off. The fun of Toblerone is — as with many chocolate bars — not the taste,
but the experience of eating it: the ritual and performance of feeling the bar in your hand and breaking off a piece. The shape of a Toblerone is up there with the Rolls-Royce Spirit of Ecstasy, the Coca-Cola bottle and the four-fingered Kit-Kat as something recognisable from 20 paces away. It is what makes it special.
Mondelez, the umbrella company that now owns the Kraft confectionery brands alongside Cadbury, has announced it needs to recoup increased costs of selling a Toblerone bar in the UK. This, in itself, is not the problem. Even the most ardent Brexiters would agree that an 18 per cent slide in the value of the pound vs the dollar can cause problems for an international company, buying ingredients on the global commodities markets (in dollars) and selling the finished product in the UK.