SARAH BUITENDACH: Covid’s chocolate cancel culture
I could handle a pandemic, load-shedding and even the planned water cut my suburb had been notified about – but having my favourite confectionery taken off the market was too much
It was a chilling moment. A forwarded image appeared in my WhatsApp: a photograph of a notice pasted on a shelf in Spar.
It read: “Please note – these lines will be discontinued soon: Milo 80g, Crunch 80g, Milky Bar Double 80g, Bar One Peanut, Peppermint Crisp 150g, Quality Street 200g & 500g and Chocolate Log.”
My involuntary response, aloud, to nobody, does not bear repeating here.
Unruffling myself, I phoned the friend who’d just sent me the pic. She was in a state. “Chocolate Log is my favourite,” she said. “What am I going to do?”
You can see her point: for her, in isolation after exposure to a Covid carrier and with a toddler going stir crazy, this was the last straw.
I, meanwhile, was fixating on the Quality Streets. What would be the point of even having Christmas without the purple one, the mint-hued triangles and all the other ones that no-one likes but eats anyway?
My thoughts crystallised: I could handle a pandemic, load-shedding and even the planned water cut my suburb had been notified about – but this was a bridge, enrobed in a silky layer of chocolatey despair, too far.
“Who are the monsters at Nestlé and Mondelez who’ve cancelled the last bit of joy in our lives?” I asked my bereft friend. We concluded it had to be some merciless expat with zero sense of SA cultural heritage and a fervent devotion to margins who’d spearheaded the cull. We were outraged.
“First Mondelez cancelled Tempos and, with it, our childhood memories. Now this!” we raged. When I phoned my sister to loop her in on the catastrophe, her response was cutting: “If Woolworths cancels Chuckles, I’m ending it.”
Not long afterwards, a couple of hastily bashed-out press releases appeared in my inbox, revealing the truth. The Chocolate Log was a goner, along with some other random Nestlé goodies. But it was only a certain packet size of Quality Street that had been cut. The jewelled candy gems weren’t going anywhere.
Though the demise of the Chocolate Log had left my dear friend picking up the marshmallow-shaped pieces of her broken heart, I moved on swiftly. She wasn’t alone, however. A nation mourned, as this TimesLive piece attests.
No lockdown sugar rush
The thing is, we all got emotional about our favourite chocolate bars and, I would assume, chocolate is something we turn to in times of stress. “Wrong!” as the Donald would say.
Earlier in the month Business Day reported that Covid-19 had taken a huge bite out of the confectionery market. The article cited numbers from Barry Callebaut, the Swiss chocolate supplier to all the big brands, including Nestlé and Mondelez. Sales of their products dropped 14.3% between March and the end of May. It was even worse in our region, where sales fell 17.1%.
In other words, we bought less chocolate in lockdown.
Now, if I didn’t know Business Day to be a top-notch purveyor of truth and fact, I would have labelled this fake news. It seems impossible that over the past million days, as we’ve sat in our homes contemplating the storm around us sans booze and smokes, we have reached for fewer KitKats and Lindt balls.
But the proof, it appears, is in the not-eating. This week Lindt & Sprüngli posted gloomy results – punctuated by the fact that profits have fallen by 78%. They’re still doing a decent trade in their Excellence range (the bars you get everywhere), but they really felt the pain from fewer people shopping in their standalone stores during the past few messy months.
Now, I don’t want have to write another column lamenting the loss of more of my world – in particular, Lindt’s dark chocolate with sea salt. Or, God forbid, the demise of Lindt Easter bunnies. So, dear reader, you know what you have to do.
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