Inside the Bundaberg and Whittaker’s chocolate collaboration

Bundaberg and Whittaker’s have joined forces to craft a new, unique chocolate at a time when consumers are looking to trusted brands and for a little escapism

A new brand collaboration across the ditch has brought together Australia’s Bundaberg Ginger Beer with Kiwi chocolate brand Whittaker’s to craft a new Ginger Caramel Chocolate.

At a time when consumers are looking to known, trusted brands and seeking affordable indulgence at home, this new pairing was an opportunity to develop a strong, unique product from two long-standing home-grown brands.

Bundaberg chief marketing officer, Penny Glasson, explained to CMO it’s using two specialists to bring together a new combination of chocolate. “The goal for both of the teams was to create affordable indulgence. And we didn’t want a PR campaign, we wanted to develop a new, incredible chocolate taste combining our skills and assets,” she said.

Unlike biscuit-flavoured milk or chocolate flavoured ice cream, this collaboration is not meant to be a flash in the pan PR stunt to gain some short-term attention. Aiming for a real partnership, it was about creating a new, unique product while remaining authentic to the story and product lines of both brands, Glasson said. And with a combined 175 years’ experience, family owned Whittaker’s and Bundaberg recognise consumers are looking to their known and trusted brands more than ever during the current climate.

In the bar, Whittaker’s Brewed Ginger Caramel encases ginger caramel in Whittaker’s 5 Roll refined milk chocolate. The ginger caramel filling is made from Bundaberg’s ginger brew used to make its much-loved Ginger Beer. The new chocolate block will launch in New Zealand this week and will be available in Australia from the end of the month, exclusively at Coles supermarkets.

The ginger brew was specially crafted for the Whittaker’s collaboration with ingredients sourced from Bundaberg’s local ginger farms. In fact, enough ingredients were sent to the Whittaker’s factory in Wellington to fill the equivalent of 335,000 bottles of Bundaberg Ginger Beer.

Glasson said it’s important in this kind of collaboration that “when both brands come together they have an appreciation for what’s important to each brand when they start to share the same territory". In this case, the colours on the packaging are more in line with Whitaker’s chocolate bars in golden and amber than Bundaberg’s traditional colour scheme. 

“There is a point at which you need to compromise but it was about the product packaging staying in line with the other Whitaker’s chocolate colour scheme but also standing out at the Bundaberg version,” she explained.

Australian family-owned Bundaberg company is known for its range of drinks, including the iconic Bundaberg Ginger Beer and other non-alcoholic beverages. It’s a four-generation business that specialises in brewing to traditional recipes. The brand carries the tagline, ‘If it’s worth brewing; it’s worth brewing well'.

A beans-to-bar chocolate maker, Whittaker’s was established in New Zealand over 120 years ago and remains a family-owned business with its operations in the country.

The COVID-19 impact

While Bundaberg wanted to tap into the desire for affordable luxury, driven by the coronavirus crisis, it meant having to manage its usual brand positioning and message.

“Our story is a happy story, so when we launched it was important we talked to consumers in their current need state and making sure we don’t ignore the reality that many consumers are looking for something positive. But equally we need to be sensitive to this situation as we’re in,” Glasson said.

“It’s been about looking at the current position and how consumer’s needs have changed and acknowledging that people are in challenging circumstances and talking about what the product brings with a bit of simple indulgence.”

The pandemic upended the media plans and ad spend for almost all brands and Bundaberg was no different. A small, family-owned operation, it took a watch and listen approach for at least two weeks as the crisis hit before going ahead with new advertising.

“We needed to see what was going on. Since then, we’ve been proactive in what we’re doing, but we’re not just following the obvious route,” Glasson said.

“Right now, I’m less interested in hearing from my media partners because there are shifts week to week and lockdowns change around the world. But we certainly know digital is playing a big role and consumers are looking for other ways to engage with products. For instance, we’re doing lockdown how to cook with ginger beer.

“It’s been very much about testing and learning and not just following traditional channels.”

Beyond the week-to-week rolling crisis of coronavirus, Glasson believed the pandemic is profoundly altering how consumers relate to brands and the values they’re wanting to see in the brands they engage with.

“We have core communication pillars for the brand around being family owned, using real ingredients, great packaging and a great product and that is what’s delivering at the moment. We have a good foundation as a business and as a brand and we’re seeing the relevancy really come through during this,” she said.

“We’ll see brands that are authentic come to life and those brands that really haven’t identified what they stand for will be challenged.

“Consumers are looking for brands they can depend on and trust. If you don't know who you are, then this is a critical time.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia


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