OPINION: By Bella Katz
Writing this fortnightly column about New Zealand brands in Australia is a tough gig.
Even for a hardened marketer like myself, I can't help but take personal interest in the companies I write about.
I'm nothing if not dedicated to my craft. I wash my dishes with
Ecostore detergents, pack my kids' lunches into Sistema boxes, add a
dash of A2 milk to my cup of tea and just this weekend took out a second
mortgage to buy a fancy Blunt umbrella, which I plan to smugly use when
Melbourne blows everyone else's $5.99 disposables straight to the bin.
Today, yet again, I went the extra mile in the name of authentic
research and dashed across the road to Woolworths to buy a big, gold,
coconut block of Whittaker's chocolate.
I'm looking at it right now as I ponder the future, on this side of
the Tasman, of yet another $100 million New Zealand brand.
As Whittaker's have noted in previous articles, Australia has been a slower burner for them in terms of market share.
On one hand, as is often the case for New Zealand exporters,
Australia is their largest export market. On the other hand its
comparative Australian market share is very small.
Whittaker's are in the single digits compared with the behemoth
chocolate brands led by Mondelez (34 per cent), Nestle Australia (18 per
cent) and Mars Australia (13.7 per cent). IbisWorld recorded these
figures as recently as June 2014, with Australian chocolate and
confectionary manufacturing generating AU$4 billion revenue.
The brand itself has never been highly visible in Australia and the
supermarkets have largely kept the bars on bottom shelves. I'm curious
to know what brand awareness is among Australians and would guess it to
be very low (especially when compared with expats' familiarity, largely
driven by the ubiquitous peanut slab).
It wasn't until a recent visit to a New Zealand supermarket that I
understood just how huge Whittaker's have become in the homeland. The
entire chocolate shelf seemed to be dedicated to products and ranges I'd
never heard of or seen here in Australia.
As I've written in the past, the might of Coles and Woolworths is
driving a model in Australian supermarkets that falls predominantly into
One stream is the good old staples that people have been buying for
years and will continue to do so. The other is the speedy onslaught of
new (sub) brands, new products, new packaging, feeding our desire for
new tastes and, just simply, new stuff. (In some cases this is old stuff
rebadged in new ways, winning renewed interest.)
Whittaker's has clearly become a master of this model back home,
launching numerous flavours and combinations and positioning itself as
an innovator, a collaborator and a local favourite that has moved with
With Nigella Lawson fronting the very recent campaign, Whittaker's
has an opportunity to create more significant groundswell in Australia.
They just need to make sure the Whittaker's name isn't eclipsed by
Nigella's and that means spending more marketing dollars around their
brand to back up the TV campaign.
Heck, maybe they should go for a full frontal attack and just
embrace her recent media attention for drug dabbling. Cheeky ad spots
where Nigella admits she now indulges in a far healthier habit, anyone?
Regardless of the future direction with (or without) Nigella, now
that Whittaker's is sitting higher on Aussie shelves they need to hammer
home the message to Australians that theirs is a chocolate worth
sampling, buying and buying again. It'll be an expensive marketing
investment, but I think well worth it.
Bella Katz is an Australia-based brand and marketing consultant
and advises New Zealand companies exporting to Australia. She is also a
New Zealand expat, calling Australia home for over a decade.