Cadbury: Sweet inside, sweeter outside
Cadbury is by far this country’s best-loved chocolate, but the confectionery giant has also been on a mission to make the outside of its fare as appealing as the inside. Brenda Neall went to talk packaging with Nathan Bradley (left), packaging manager, MEA Science & Technology at Cadbury South Africa. Nathan, an MSc in Packaging Technology, started his career in repro and print and has spent ten years with Cadbury at Bourneville in the UK, in Port Elizabeth, and now in Johannesburg.
BN: Nathan, first off, what does all the blurb mean behind your name?
NB: Cadbury’s Science & Technology division is the name we give our R&D operations. It’s a global network, operating out of several centres of excellence around the world. These tend to concentrate on one of our three business categories; chocolate, gum and candy. Here in South Africa, we specialise in emerging market needs across all three sectors. MEA describes the geographical scope of our work, throughout the Middle East and Africa.
But, I must add, this is not a closed shop; we embrace open innovation and work closely with outside technology partners who can help us speed up our activities to market. One thing that Cadbury doesn’t do is reinvent the wheel. Rather we scan the Cadbury world and the outside world for products and packages and evaluate the opportunity to localise them. We call it ‘smart variety’. It enables us to get a lot more stretch for our science and technology spend.
I’m curious that this interview is happening at Cadbury local head office in Sandton; surely R&D, or S&T in your case, is more likely to be found at a production plant? At the chocolate face?
That would be the assumption, but Cadbury made the decision that innovation and development should be more aligned with the commercial needs of the business, with brand managers than production or factory managers. It’s a deliberate strategy to be more consumer focused, and which is essential for ongoing success in a very competitive environment.
Making arguably the world’s favourite product, owning the top-selling brands and a 60% market share isn’t enough?
Market leadership in chocolate in South Africa illustrates that we make winning brands that people love, but there’s no room to rest on laurels. Cadbury has had a major strategic rethink, based on the premise that we must deliver what’s right for the consumer, not what we can produce. We have undertaken a great deal of research to truly understand consumer criteria.
This marketing-based philosophy is founded on two key pillars – persuasion and engagement. The first requires that we fully understand what makes our brands different and special. Once that work is done we focus on the second – communication that connects strongly with our consumers on an emotional and a functional level.
How does packaging fit into this approach?
Packaging as silent salesman, obviously, has a vital role to play. We took a long, hard look at our packaging and reached the conclusion that we could make it work harder; that we could get it talking as loudly to consumers as our confectionery does. Cadbury uses a great deal of packaging and we’re doing our best to make it resonate better with consumers. Through design, functionality and materials technology, we’re seeking points of difference.
That sounds easier said than done. My perception of confectionery packaging is that it’s largely quite simple ie cartons, flow-wrapping and pillow packs. Finding innovation in commodity formats must be challenging?
There are two approaches. The first is that we’ve broken down accepted formats and put our products into something completely different, notably with gum to great success. The second is to do more interesting things with our existing formats.
While we love bells and whistles they’re often impractical or too expensive. So we view innovation as a far more subtle tool, if you will, where we are ever mindful that new packaging solutions and options must be ‘asset friendly’; that they are functional and feasible within the equipment limits of the factories, or that they entail acceptable capital investment if it is required. This is especially the case in the MEA region where there’s little room for a packaging premium.
Gum innovation is particularly interesting. According to the Innova Database, the sector is characterised by high levels of new product activity, with Innova recording nearly 900 chewing gum launches globally over the 12 months to the end of September 2008 out of a total of nearly 10 000 confectionery launches overall. Much gum innovation is flavour or ingredient-based, but new packaging formats are also notable . . .
It’s a very dynamic market, and the usual stick packs and blister packs have been giving way to new bulk packaging formats. We broke the local boundaries of chewing gum packaging in a big way this year by looking across categories for packaging possibilities and introducing a rigid plastic format for our Stimorol brand.
To keep within our cost parameters, we opted for a middle-ground solution, with Ultrapack developing the HDPE bottle, and importing the flip-top closure to harmonise with the Cadbury European pack and also maximising our investment in overseas injection moulding tooling.
Break-through packaging design needs the collaboration of a good technology partner and working with Ultrapack produced a great result. Together, we’ve delivered a piece of packaging that been phenomenally successful for Stimorol this year.
How does this pack meet that strategic imperative to resonate with consumers?
We understand that chewing gum brands have an aspirational element; that people choose their brand with intent. The hygienic, functional, portable, tactile and recloseable aspects of this new flip-top concept fits this bill. We have also learnt that consumers want different consumption options; that there was a demand for multiple-unit options beyond the ten or 12 pellets in a blister pack.
And we haven’t neglected the mass market with our chewing gum offering, coming up with a successful three-pellet Stimorol pillow pack offering, and a two-pellet carton for Clorets.
On this point, making our products more affordable is not about lessening their quality. It has to be a substantial treat at the price this consumer can buy. Consumption of gum and chocolate is quite low in South Africa, relatively speaking, held back to a degree by distribution and cost. We’ve made great strides in making our brands more widely available at affordable prices.
Talking affordable innovation, Cadbury has been doing some contrary things with flow wrapping?
We made a radical move away from traditional low-gauge, glossy OPP, purple flow wrap for moulded Cadbury’s Dairy Milk with the launch of the Local ‘n Lekker range in high-gauge, matt-lacquered PET/OPP lamination. It has tremendous shelf stand-out and has been a huge local hit. The range debuted in 2007 and over four million units were sold. With four new variants introduced this year, it has lost none of its impetus.
This again is a fine example of working with external technology partners to come up with innovative, asset-friendly packaging solutions. More recently, we worked with Nampak Flexible to introduce subtle holographic film for a premium, silky look on our Three Wishes range.
Promotional activity is crucial in the confectionery market to drive sales; any interesting developments here?
On-pack promotions and competitions are never easy with confectionery, mainly due to space and factory constraints. But this year, in conjunction with Nampak Flexible and AstraFlex, we refined a cost-effective, on-pack solution using multi-head ink jet technology, with sequential numbering capability printing on line. Normally, these sorts of promotions require the impracticalities of stickers or loose inserts but we developed a fantastic alternative that was feasible from all aspects. It’s about to be repeated for a third time.
One can’t talk packaging these days without talking green. Cadbury has embarked on a well-publicised sustainability initiative called ‘Purple Goes Green’. . .
In 2007 with the Purple Goes Green initiative, Cadbury was the first food manufacturer to commit to an ‘absolute’ carbon reduction of 50% by 2020, setting a precedent for other confectionery players to follow.
Purple Goes Green has a wide agenda; sustainable agriculture, energy and water use, and reducing solid waste and waste water. Packaging is an important aspect and we have developed a global strategy that will help us achieve a commitment to a 10% reduction in primary packaging and a 25% reduction in seasonal packaging by 2010, as well as 60% biodegradable packaging (including paper, board and bio-plastics) and 100% of secondary packaging to be recyclable where practicable (and labelled to communicate this).
This sounds very ambitious?
Yes and no. . . We have set stretching targets but the environmental challenges require a renewed level of commitment, leadership and courage. The aim is to make a strong social and environmental impact but there will be long-term economic gains, too. It’s good to be part of a positive action plan and we’re rolling it out in partnership with our consumers, customers and suppliers. We’ve already made excellent progress with fairly painless, common-sense changes.
As a major user of packaging, are you impressed by the South African industry, its willing and innovation?
I think suppliers always need to be stretched and challenged because it’s so much easier to churn out the same old packaging and formats. The industry is rigidly focused on cost; concerned about procurement over innovation. We need to seek affordable innovation in materials, conversion and packing processes to remain cost effective, something I believe the local industry support well.
This is not without its hurdles, but we have made headway with a triangular approach; raw material suppliers, converters and ourselves, in understanding each other’s limitations and capabilities and coming up with workable solutions. Working smart together and harmonising our efforts ultimately delivers speed to market. The local industry is under constant threat from global competitors and it needs to offer more insights and seek out the opportunities.
My favourite last question: what do you like best about your job?
Our brands are much-loved favourites; being part of bringing pleasure to millions of people every day is extremely rewarding. Actively accelerating and enhancing the appeal of our products and brands is a lot of fun.
Purple goes green: How Cadbury MEA is actioning the confectionery giant’s commitment to environmental sustainability and responsibility.
Cadbury SA: adopting Lock n’ Pop, an adhesive-based palletising solution for an 80% reduction in stretch film
Wrapping 10 000 pallets with stretch film requires 636kg of CO2, 28,6 barrels of oil and produces 50m3 of solid waste. In Swaziland alone, for the Chappies and Eclairs brands, stretch film usage would reduce from 7 500kg to 1 500kg pa, with 6 000kg less solid waste. A 80% reduction in stretch film usage. The technology will be adopted first at Cadbury’s PE Olympus plant which will see a reduction of stretch film usage by some 83% on the CDM moulded block range. A great example of technology adoption in pursuit of materials reduction and environmental advantage.
Working closely with base material supplier, SAPPI, and converters to use lighter weight kraft papers and optimise carton dimensions, the result is a 16% reduction in corrugated case weight as well as the removal of 100 tons of board from potential landfill.
Cadbury Nigeria: downgauging tin plate – 17,5% reduction in tin plate
Cadbury, Nampak Nigeria and Avon Packaging have realised the benefits of implementing mature-market technologies into an emerging market. A reduction in the gauge of tinplate for Bournvita tins has removed over 190 tons of tin plate from the supply chain.
A new stand-up pouch for Bournvita refill packs, previously a bag within an overwrapped carton, has saved an additional 68 tons of material from the waste stream and added several consumer benefits.
Cadbury Botswana: Stimorol multi-pack – improving packaging:product ratios
Cadbury’s Purple Goes Green strategy includes bettering packaging:product ratios. For Stimorol, a move from a blister card multi-pack format to a flow-wrapped multi-pack has delivered superior branding and aesthetics, improved display options and driven increased sales volumes.
Read more on Cadbury’s sustainability commitments and achievements at www.dearcadbury.com.
First published in PACKAGiNG & Print Media, January 2009.
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