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Arnotts ‘humbled’ but in for the long haul as furore grows over changes to Shapes recipe

Arnott's marketing executives have defended the company's controversial move to change the flavours of its popular Shapes range, saying it will not back-track on the shift which has triggered a social media storm.

Arnott's humbled by backlash on changes to its Shapes range

Arnott’s humbled by backlash on changes to its Shapes range

Arnott’s marketing executives have defended the company’s controversial move to change the flavours of its popular Shapes range, saying it will not back-track on the shift which has triggered a social media storm.

The company revealed it has invested in an entirely new IT set-up to manage the social media fall-out following the release of the revamped range.

The brand has launched a massive outdoor campaign to support the newly launched flavours, which began appearing on supermarket shelves a few weeks ago, shifting the flavour profile of the biscuits.

The campaign, by Clemenger Group agency TKT, is being backed by the social media hashtag #eatthebiscuit.

Marketing director – savoury, Sarah Ryan, told Mumbrella the company had taken the bold decision to tinker with the recipe to keep pace with the changing tastes of consumers, but admitted it had been “humbled” by the social media response.

“Tastes are getting more sophisticated with Australians being exposed to other cuisines, more sophisticated flavours, more often and earlier in their lives,” Ryan said.

“Our number one complaint on Shapes has consistently been that there isn’t enough flavour.  If you look in the snack foods category, there has been a lot of innovation delivering fuller and more sophisticated flavours, this has meant our measure of the Shapes ‘flavour hit’ has been declining over recent years.

“In short, we’ve had thousands of contacts asking us for more flavourful Shapes.”

Some consumers far from impressed

Some consumers are far from impressed

Fellow Arnott’s marketing director – savoury, Rowena Ditzell, said the company had looked at other businesses that had changed the taste or design of consumer favourites and invested heavily in research ahead of the decision to change the product.

“Arnott’s has never embarked on a project with this level of research and testing before,” Ditzell said.

“We have done extensive qualitative and quantitative research, including sensory testing and alienation testing with heavy Shapes consumers. We have spoken to over 11,000 Australians in the development of new and improved Shapes.”

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 3.04.17 PMArnott’s also rejected the idea of simply doing a brand extension with the new flavours, although traditional favourites BBQ Original, Chicken Crimpy and Savoury will remain in aisle alongside the new variants.

Gone also is the line “flavour you can see”, replaced with the new line, “now with more flavour”.

“We were expecting some noise from this launch and it has been humbling for us to see the level of passion Aussies have for their Shapes,” Ryan said.

“We also resourced our consumer contact centre and social media team to handle the increased enquiries. We have sent out hundreds of old and new packs of Shapes for consumers to taste, side-by-side, and we’re doing mass sampling to give Aussies the chance to try the new Shapes before they make up their minds.

“We increased resource on our social media team. We’ve also implemented a new IT system to help manage our social media contacts and better allow us to track the feedback, respond and report on the trends.”

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 2.46.10 PMShe said the company had been prepared for backlash, but said Arnott’s had committed to the new flavours and was in for the long haul, expecting it to take time for consumers to fully embrace the changed flavours.

“We know that people aren’t always happy with change but we tested and trialled the new flavours extensively and believe we have created the best Shapes we’ve ever made. As with all our products, it’s our consumers who ultimately decide what we make by their purchasing decisions.” Ryan said.

Social media comment has been vigorous

Social media comment has been vocal and often angry

Arnott’s denied that the flavour change was a stunt aimed at grabbing attention, saying millions of dollars had been invested in retooling its plant to make the new flavours.

“This change was firmly in response to customer feedback that Shapes lovers wanted more flavour,” Ditzell said.

“As you can imagine, to achieve this new recipe, whereby the flavour is baked into the biscuit and sprinkled on both sides, millions of dollars have been invested in the project with new equipment at our bakeries and thousands of hours of R&D, sensory and flavour development work as well as an extensive marketing campaign which is just launching.”

Simon Canning

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