Julie Morrice reports on how eating a bar of chocolate can take on a whole new dimension in Edinburgh.
major manufacturers. Ofcourse. Duncan‘s Hazelnut Chocolate appeals not only to those in the market for new releases; it also has nostalgia value.
From humble beginnings in 1861 in a cake shop in Dundee. William Duncan built up his confectionery business until it held a large share of the Scottish market. By 1927 he was getting on a bit and. keen to expand into the English market. he asked Rowntree of York to take over. For forty years Duncan’s operated successfully as a subsidiary of Rowntree. but by the mid-Sixties the confectionery market had changed. Duncan‘s wide range of small sellers couldn‘t compete in a marketplace
It‘s official. The woman in the newsagent told me yesterday morning. You can‘t get a bar of Duncan's Hazelnut Chocolate for love nor money in Edinburgh.
In this day and age. when everything we buy is manufactured by bodiless multinationals. the idea of a chocolate bar made just down the road beside Powderhall Stadium has caught the public imagination. ‘Sales are outstripping production at the moment.‘ says Duncan's Sales and Marketing Director. Mike Dunning. There often is an initial peak ofsales when a new product is launched. but it seems Hazelnut Chocolate is selling as well as any recently launched bar from the
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increasingly geared to high volume lines. and Rowntree decided it was no longer profitable to carry on the Duncan business. By the end of 1967 the Duncan factory was producing Rowntree products. Hazelnut Chocolate was a thing of the past. Until 1988. The micro-technology boom left Rowntree with tnore factory space than they needed. but the decision to close the Edinburgh factory was not accepted with resignation by the local management. Sixteen of them. led by Bob Baxter. now Managing Director. decided to resurrect the Duncan trademark and. six weeks ago the first adverts appeared telling the Scottish chocolate eating public that Duncan‘s were back in business and ‘still making special moments special'.
‘If it hadn't been for Rowntree we couldn't have done it.‘ says Mike Dunning. It is easy to cast Rowntree as the villains in the Duncan saga. but in fact they appear to have retained something of the original chocolate-makers philanthropy. giving the new company the Duncan‘s copyright and name. and selling them the factory at what Dunning calls ‘a very fair price‘. Nevertheless. as Dunning admits. a lot of people are still very bitter about the closure of the factory. Although Duncan‘s are now employing over 411 people. many more have lost their jobs. There can be little doubt that many people eating Hazelnut Chocolate are doing so in a spirit of revenge against the manufacturing megaliths.
How can a small concern like Duncan‘s hope to compete with the chocolate giants. whose productivity is immense and whose profits are measured in hundreds of millions of pounds? The answer is. they don't. or at least not directly. ‘Wc have to avoid direct competition with the big three - Cadbury. Mars and Rowntree.‘ says Mike Dunning. ‘The Hazelnut bar was a good past seller and the nearest thing on the market now is Cadbury's Whole nut: but we use *3roasted‘2 hazelnuts which give a very different taste.‘ Other Duncan's products. like
Chocolate Ginger Pralines. Parisian Creams or Apricot Brandy Truffles. have no obvious equivalents. They are also. as the ads suggest. a little bit different from your average box of chocs.
‘People are fed up with seeing the same range of products in every shop from Wick to Land‘s End.‘. says Mike Dunning. Duncan‘s are distributing throughout Scotland and hope to grab a bit of the tourist market as well as the loyal Scottish sweet tooth. ‘We‘ve gone to a little trouble to select our outlets.‘. says Dunning. who hopes Duncan‘s will bring back ‘specialness‘ to chocolate. As he points out. it‘s difficult to sell on exclusivity it there are boxes of Parisian Creams piled up at every supermarket checkout.
With 70% of all confectionery being bought on impulse. good packaging is vital. Duncan‘s have gone to tremendous lengths to get the look and feel of their packaging exactly right. ‘We want the packs to represent the quality of yesteryear without looking dowdy or old-fashioned.‘ says Dunning. The result is a classy design in strong colours. which owes something to fifties chic. They have done ‘cosmctic things‘ like colouring the inside of the box and using paper cases instead of plastic trays to give the suggestion that these are ‘just a little bit better than ordinary chocolates.‘
The success ofThornton‘s. where people often buy just a few individual sweets. suggested the potential ofsmaller boxes of chocolates. As well as half~pound boxes. Duncan's sell smart. slim packs ofsix; ideal for ‘health conscious young ladies‘ and kids buying a little present for Mum.
'Nobody‘s saying that we're right and the big manufacturers are wrong‘. says Mike Dunning. Despite the implications ofinternational takeovers. the chocolate market is wide. Nevertheless. Duncan's are well aware ofgrowth in that sector of the population willing to pay a little bit more for something a little bit better.
60 The List 27 May — 9 June 1988