Operation transformed from caring to ‘heartless’

Hundreds of workers are set to lose their jobs when Dunedin’s factory closes. Photo: Stephen...
Hundreds of workers are set to lose their jobs when Dunedin’s factory closes. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Cadbury has transformed from a company that  cared about staff to a "heartless" multinational which only sees them as numbers on a spreadsheet, its former marketing manager says.

Mike Groves, who worked for Cadbury from 1967 to 1981, said the company had long since lost sight of the ideals which once made  it  New Zealand’s most trusted company in a Readers Digest survey.

The closure of the Dunedin factory was the final blow in a series of decisions

that  had slowly destroyed the New Zealand brand, Mr Groves said.

He referred  to  the  shortlived  use of palm oil in its recipe and decreasing the size of its king-size blocks, Mr Groves said.

When he worked at the factory Cadbury still had strong links to the Cadbury family and its Quaker values.

"They were a Quaker firm and they believed in Quaker values and that included being honest and acting ethically to staff, customers and suppliers."

This respect resulted in a loyal workforce.

Any links to the values of Cadbury’s founders were lost when it was sold to Kraft, which later became Mondelez International, in 2010.

He believed the 362 workers who are set to lose their jobs when Dunedin’s factory closes meant nothing to the people in charge of Mondelez.

"Remember that Mondelez is a vast corporation, their turnover is in the multi-billions.

"To them what does a little company like Cadbury’s New Zealand matter, what do they care if 350 people in Dunedin lose their job?

"They are numbers on spreadsheet."

He believed the decision could further erode the Cadbury brand in New Zealand.

In the past Cadbury used to "dominate the market", but that was no longer the case, with Whittaker’s taking Cadbury’s place both in terms of sales and as a trusted brand.

"They have taken huge advantage of Cadbury’s folly."

University of Otago business school academic Dr David Bishop, who worked for the company between 1973 and 1986, said the decision would hurt the brand, but a lot of damage had already been done.

"The palm oil disaster of about 10 years ago saw Cadbury drop from being one of the most trusted brands in New Zealand to not even  ...  in the top 30.

"The way the company handled what was a major disaster for the brand did not help," Dr Bishop said.

The closure of the Dunedin factory would further erode the brand in the "short to medium term", but people who were attached to certain products would likely continue to buy them.

"But if another company were to produce an acceptable offering under a trusted brand people might easily switch brands."

It was "very unlikely" calls to boycott Cadbury would have any impact on Mondelez’s final decision to close the factory.

"I expect to see some very cheap special offers on Cadbury products in coming months as they try to buy back sales. The pity is that somebody seems to have missed the simple fact that people are usually prepared to pay more for brands they trust."

A Mondelez International spokesman said the proposal to shut the factory was an "incredibly difficult one for our business because of the impact it could have on 350 of our people and the broader Dunedin community".

"Unfortunately, while we have absorbed the additional costs of local production for some time, the international confectionery industry has never been more competitive," he said.

The proposal would support the sustainability of its business in New Zealand and it would continue to partner and invest in "hundreds of small and large businesses right across the country".

It was also looking at how it could continue to support local community events.

vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

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