PHOTO: Jeff McEwan
Whittaker's, a household name in pure indulgence, is taking its products to chocolate-lovers around the world – but it’s also taking care to safeguard its solid reputation.
Whittaker’s Chocolate has been around since 1896, and four generations of the same family have helped build it into the iconic and much-loved Kiwi brand it is today.
But how does such an old, established New Zealand company continue to thrive and be innovative more than a century after it was started?
Whittaker’s chief marketing officer Philip Poole says each successive generation has brought new ideas and life to the company, while holding true to its heritage and values.
“We’ve been around for 116 years, but the two directors Brian and Andrew are still very much involved in the company and invest heavily in the latest technology,” says Poole. “They set the culture and tone.”
And now Andrew’s children, Matt and Holly, have taken on key roles at Whittaker’s, driving its international business development and marketing its delicious range through clever advertising, unexpected collaborations and social media.
“Whittaker’s is tiny compared to our competitors, Cadbury, Mars and Nestlé, but the reason we can survive and prosper is our dedication to constantly improving the quality of our products,” says Poole. “Everything we do is driven by our ambition to produce world-class chocolate from Porirua. It’s a very important philosophy that we can then build on with innovative promotions.”
One such innovation, Whittaker’s L&P chocolate, has married two quintessentially New Zealand brands, and delighted chocolate-lovers nationwide.
“It’s been our biggest new product launch ever, with tremendous support from retail trade and very positive consumer feedback. Our product development team did a great job. It’s been a big investment, and while we never thought it would fail, we underestimated how successful it would really be.”
And Whittaker’s isn’t just enjoying local success. The last five years have seen the company actively expand its overseas markets, with a new focus on Asia, the Middle East and South America.
“Australia is our biggest export market,” says Poole. “Our Almond Gold slab products have been in Singapore and Malaysia for some time, and we’re looking to develop into Thailand, the Philippines and the rest of Southeast Asia, as well as the Middle East.”
Chocolate has global appeal, he says, and while palates vary from nation to nation, Whittaker’s has made a point of not changing its products or adapting its flavours for different markets. If you’re wondering, though, it’s unlikely that Whittaker’s L&P chocolate will ever be sold beyond our shores, due to its uniquely New Zealand taste. Naturally, protecting its new ideas and the good reputation that Whittaker’s has worked so hard to build is vital.
That’s where intellectual property specialist AJ Park comes in. For nearly two decades AJ Park has been working with Whittaker’s on many different aspects of its IP protection.
Partner and trade mark expert Corinne Blumsky says attorneys from AJ Park assist Whittaker’s with its numerous agreements around product supply and placement, as well as advertising and sponsorship agreements.
There are also confidentiality agreements relating to potential joint ventures, and AJ Park’s specialist litigation team handles any potential IP disputes.
Blumsky manages all the trade mark and branding considerations around Whittaker’s products, advising the company on appropriate names for its new formats and flavours to ensure
it isn’t infringing others’ rights.
“Whittaker’s has a really strong brand, and even though it’s a surname, we’ve had relatively few problems with it on a worldwide basis,” she says.
“The Whittaker’s team is very receptive and seeks out our advice at an early stage, which is excellent because it puts us on the front foot so we’re not blindsided by any issues. They keep us informed and treat us like a partner.”
Poole says the work AJ Park does for Whittaker’s is vital to its export success.
“It’s absolutely critical, because when you’re moving into new markets you need that protection. We get excellent service from AJ Park and have a very close relationship with them. We’ve focused on protecting ourselves in markets we’re likely to move into.
“It’s an expensive process but it’s an investment to protect your brand name. For a consumer goods company like Whittaker’s, your brand is your biggest asset.”
Intellectual property specialist AJ Park has been working with iconic Kiwi chocolate manufacturer Whittaker’s, advising them on their trade mark and branding issues as the company takes its products to overseas markets.