A taste test of dubious value

An example of how headlines can mislead can be found on the NZ Herald’s web-site today.

A headline told Alf something dastardly had happened to a prominent New Zealand-owned chocolate company. It says: Whittaker’s comes cropper in choc taste test

But has it come a cropper?

Cadbury has taken umbrage at a hard-hitting television advertisement featuring side-by-side comparisons of Cadbury and Whittaker’s chocolate. It has complained to the Advertising Standards Authority.

But Whittaker hasn’t come a cropper there. The authority has made no decision on the advertising, and even if it were to rule the advertising breaches some silly code, Whittaker may well pick up a bit of market share.

Especially when it learns of the Herald taste test in which the tasters judged its product creamier, richer or darker than the Cadbury product.

True, Whittaker’s came second when Herald staff conducted the taste test. But the margin was not so great that you could say it came a cropper and the test was unscientific.

The comparative advertising campaign

… follows pubic dismay over Cadbury’s decision to reduce the size of its chocolate blocks from 250g to 200g and to include the controversial product palm oil in its recipe.

The spread of palm oil plantations is blamed for the loss of rainforest in Southeast Asia.

Asked whether the advertisement was made as a response to its rival’s new recipe, Whittaker’s marketing manager Philip Poole said: “Not really. We just wanted to highlight some aspects of the Whittaker’s product.”

Mr Poole said there had been some feedback on the ads but he was not aware of any complaints.

He said Whittaker’s had no intention of reducing its block sizes and would “certainly not” use palm oil, which would detract from its reputation as having a “cocoa-pure product” using 100 per cent cocoa butter.

The Herald then reports the results of what it admits is “an unscientific taste test” to see if people could tell the difference between the two brands.

This involved pieces of the chocolates being laid – brand name hidden – on two plates at Mission Bay.

Passers-by were asked to sample the brands to see if they could tell the difference. Of 22 people, 11 said they preferred Cadbury, seven liked Whittaker’s and four had no preference, liked both or couldn’t tell the difference.

Whittaker’s was found to be creamier, richer or darker and Cadbury was “gooeyer”, softer or smoother.

Whittaker might be disappointed to learn it didn’t come out on top in this test.

But you can’t say it has come a cropper. Not when the test was conducted among just 22 people and, more significantly, it was conducted in Auckland.

Who else would prefer “gooeyer”, softer or smoother
chocolate to creamier, richer or darker chocolate?

Oh, and as a caption beneath a picture of a chunk of chocolate says:

Whittaker’s TV advertisement highlights their chocolate as the superior snack – but Herald readers prefer Cadbury.

This reinforces Alf’s contention (and damned near proves it).

The testers were the Herald’s AUCKLAND readers, and conducting a taste test among Herald readers from Auckland is like asking a bunch of deaf people to judge a singing competition.

3 Responses to A taste test of dubious value

  1. Carly Day says:

    Totally agree with you on that one (even though I am an AUCKLAND reader so will try not to take offence.)
    Am shocked and dismayed that even half the people in their dodgy taste test preferred cadbury!?!? It tastes like shite now.
    Also the skimming over of the more important issue of Palm Oil in the chocolate is just shallow reporting at it’s best. Sigh.
    I have over 1000 signatures and comments on my Petition to remove Palm Oil from Cadbury chocolate, all very passionate about boycotting cadbury because of the environmental destruction caused by unsustainable Palm Oil. A great news story which is being overlooked in favour of this schmaltz!

  2. Alf Grumble says:

    Let’s just say you are a splendid exception to my rule about tasteless Aucklanders. Keep up the good work with your petition.

  3. Adolf Fiinkensein says:

    Don’t forget to check out the melamine levels in palm oil. I recall reading it is a contaminant of imported palm kernel feedstock for our dairy industry.

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