One Toblerone bar is sold every two seconds in airport duty-free shops
Geneva (AFP) - Switzerland’s famous Matterhorn mountain is gradually disappearing from Toblerone’s packaging to comply with “Swissness” laws once its new plant in Slovakia opens, the world-famous chocolate brand’s owners said Monday.
Established in 1908 in the Tobler family factory, the instantly-recognisable triangular chocolate has so far been produced exclusively in Bern, the Alpine nation’s capital.
But Toblerone is opening a new plant in Bratislava in the third quarter (Q3) of 2023 “to meet increased global demand”, said the brand’s owner, US food giant Mondelez International.
That meant Toblerone had to replace “of Switzerland” on its packaging, which was revealed when the new Slovakia production line was announced in June last year.
But along with “established in Switzerland” now appearing on the pack, the pyramid-shaped Matterhorn, a cherished national icon, is being replaced with a generic triangular mountain, sparking heated debate in Switzerland.
“We have to adapt our packaging to the Swissness legislation,” a Mondelez spokeswoman told AFP.
“The pack redesign introduces a modernised and streamlined mountain logo, in line with the geometric and ‘be more triangle’ aesthetic.”
However, the bear of Bern, symbol of the city, will still be hidden in the new mountain’s contours.
“More and more people will see the brand’s exciting new visual identity and packaging design, as it started to be rolled out across markets from Q3 2022,” the spokeswoman said.
- ‘Matter of pride’ -
Toblerone produces seven billion chocolate bars a year, with 97 percent exported to 120 countries.
They are ubiquitous at airport duty-free shops around the world, where one bar is sold every two seconds, according to Mondelez.
The name is a play on words from Tobler and “torrone” – the Italian name for honey-almond nougat.
The Tribune de Geneve newspaper debated whether it was “commercial suicide” for Toblerone.
But Michael Kamm, owner of the communications agency Trio, said the brand was “very well established aside from its logo”, telling the daily that its shape, colours and letters were “emblematic and recognisable among a thousand”.
Fribourg University marketing professor Olivier Furrer added: “The Matterhorn is especially important for Swiss consumers, because it is a matter of pride.
“We may be offended by this change. But foreigners might not even notice.”
The news comes after Swiss pride took another hit last week.
A US appeals court ruled Friday that in the United States, the word “gruyere” is a common label for cheese and cannot be reserved just for the kind made originally in France or Switzerland, where the medieval town of Gruyeres is located.
“Cheese and chocolate are among the flagship products of the Swiss food industry,” Olivier Perrin wrote in an opinion piece published Monday by the Le Temps newspaper.
“It is therefore, for many, a shock” to find that Gruyere “can now be anything” and Toblerone is dropping the Matterhorn.