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Mondelēz launches new strategies to refresh iconic Toblerone and Milka brands

As executives at Mondelēz International pondered a “transformation” for its 114-year-old Toblerone chocolate brand, it didn’t take long to coalesce on a strategy: double down on what makes the brand unique in a crowded field.

“We’ve just taken this very kind of challenger disrupter, don’t stick to the rule approach to everything,” said Nick Rees, chief creative officer and partner at Bulletproof, who helped Mondelēz make the changes to Toblerone.

While Mondelēz is best known for producing Oreo, Ritz and Triscuits in the U.S., a big part of the global snacking giant’s presence is in chocolate and premium offerings. In the last few years, Mondelēz purchased Clif Bar; Hu, a maker of snacks and chocolates made from simple ingredients; and cookie maker Tate’s Bake Shop to deepen its U.S. presence. 

At the same time, Mondelēz closely scoured its portfolio for ways to modernize some of its better-selling brands such as Toblerone and Milka chocolate. It announced in December it would sell its developed-market gum business, including brands such as Trident, Dentyne and Chiclets, in developed markets for $1.35 billion. 

Brittany Quatrochi, an analyst at Edward Jones, said Mondelēz’s goal is to keep its brands top-of-mind for consumers by incorporating redesigned packaging, ingredients changes or shedding light on the company’s efforts to increase its sustainability.

These changes, she said, are especially important in today’s environment as Mondelēz and other food companies increase the price of their products; having something new or novel gives the product added value for the shopper and makes consumers more likely to buy.

”You’ll continue to see them kind of put that investment behind these brands to keep things fresh and to keep it new and to help drive sales growth,” Quatrochi said. “Ultimately, that’s what all of this does is that investment, it benefits the consumer and gets them more engaged with the brand. That helps drive sales growth and growth as a company long term.”

What motivated the biggest brand shift in decades

Toblerone, which was created in 1908 in Switzerland by Theodor Tobler, has built its longevity on having a chocolate brand that eschews the shape, taste and packaging of its competitors. And for the most part, it’s worked. 

In addition to its distinct triangle shape, Toblerone has a crunchy, smooth and chewy texture different from other chocolates. It also has a ubiquitous presence in airports and other travel establishments that generates widespread recognition among consumers — roughly 73% of people in the U.S. have heard of the brand, Mondelēz said.

But despite the high level of familiarity, when shoppers are asked to name a chocolate brand that they are thinking about or want to purchase, the percentage plunges to 3%, according to the company. 

Mondelēz’s decision to give Toblerone its biggest refresh in the last three decades was built largely on building brand equity, increasing its visibility in stores and expanding the times during the year when a person might consume or gift it.

Toblerone, mondelez, chocolate, candy

Optional Caption

Astrid Stawiarz via Getty Images


Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day and Christmas remain lucrative consumption holidays, but Mondelēz wanted Toblerone to play a bigger role during other times, too, such as birthdays, local celebrations and everyday snacking occasions. 

For years, conventional brands received much of the attention through the industry, but premiumization as a whole has infiltrated many facets of food and beverage. Chocolate has proven to be no different. Mondelēz saw a chance to win in the premium chocolate space by changing Toblerone’s packaging and reshaping how the company marketed the brand at stores and promoted it on social media.

Even as Mondelēz overhauled Toblerone, the company was careful not to disrupt what the brand stood for or its heritage. Instead, it wanted to build on its key strengths. It’s a big reason why the changes occurred exclusively on the outside of the package. Mondelēz was adamant that it wouldn’t alter the taste, texture or appearance of the Swiss chocolate. 

A chocolate that became ‘too corporate looking’

Before they even started the refresh, Rees and others dug into the brand’s iconic heritage by looking at ads in books, posters and other materials to see how Toblerone has been portrayed in the past — how was the confection described, what colors were used on the packaging and how did the Swiss mountain on the packaging look.

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