Sponsored feature

Champions of Design: Toblerone

The triangular-shaped Swiss chocolate may be more than 100 years old, but it is a mainstay of duty-free shops.

The distinctive triangular-shaped Toblerone is a symbol of Switzerland and, oddly, airport duty-free shops.

Its unusual shape is often mistakenly assumed to have been inspired by the Swiss Alps and, in particular, the Matterhorn. However, its creator, Theodor Tobler, based the design on the Folies Bergere in Paris, whose dancers ended their performances in the shape of a pyramid.

The Tobler company, making Toblerone and other confectionery, was established by Theodor and his father Jean, expanding the family's already successful sweet-shop business.

Located in Bern, Switzerland, Fabrique de Chocolat Berne, Tobler & Cie opened in 1899. A year later, Theodor took over the business.

Alongside his cousin Emil Bauman, he came up with the honey and almond nougat recipe and unique shape in 1908, patenting both a year later. It is rumoured that the person who granted the patent was none other than Albert Einstein, who at the time worked in the Swiss patent office.

The cousins came up with a name for the concoction by combining the family name with 'torrone', the Italian word for nougat. Toblerone was born.

The confection was a success, with its unique shape an inspired idea that helped it stand out in the crowded Swiss chocolate market.

In 1925, the ambitious Tobler opened a US subsidiary. However, the move was a flop, as the timing coincided with a rise in import duties. The great crash followed and in 1931 the entire board was forced to resign. Tobler remained a director and the company was sold to a French consortium. Within a couple of years, though, Tobler had stepped down from the company.

Recovering from the fallout of World War II, when ingredients such as cocoa and milk had been rationed, the Tobler company embarked on international expansion again, successfully opening subsidiaries in Germany and Italy. Toblerone remained a flagship product, as did a rum-filled chocolate. Although now discontinued, Tobler-O-Rum was claimed by the company to be the first filled chocolate ever created.

By 1963, Toblerone was being exported to 101 countries.

Tobler merged with Suchard, maker of Milka chocolate bars, in 1970. In 1982, the company merged with the Jacobs coffee company, which was acquired by Kraft Foods in 1990.

All Toblerone bars are produced in Brunnen, just outside Bern, allowing the chocolate to be promoted as Swiss-made, if no longer Swiss-owned.

Its strong associations with its homeland perhaps explain its presence in airports and the duty-free shopping bags of travellers.

Successive owners have built upon this and airport retail remains a major focus for the brand.

In 2000, Toblerone's packaging was redesigned, although the shape was retained. An eagle appeared on the first bars, which was replaced by a bear, the symbol of its home town, Bern. The current logo incorporates a bear shape hidden in an image of the Matterhorn.

Toblerone accounts for 40% of Swiss chocolate exports and 96% of the bars produced are for export. It is reportedly the third-best seller in duty-free stores after tobacco and alcohol.


BRAND LESSON

Silas Amons, creative strategist, JKRCREATIVE STRATEGIST, JKR

By Silas Amos, creative strategist, JKR

What defines an 'iconic' design? It's an overused expression, but, by my reckoning, Toblerone fits the bill. For me, an iconic design features a graphical or stylistic property that symbolises the brand's values and attributes, thereby creating charisma. One also has to apply best practice: the tenacity, over many years, to focus on the core iconography and keep investing it with meaning.

Toblerone has a distinctive shape and comes in an equally distinctively shaped pack - one that looks like a mountain, of which you find many in Switzerland.

So this is definitively 'Swiss' chocolate. In truth, mountains might not have inspired the original shape, but original intentions are irrelevant - myth and meanings attach themselves to iconic brands like iron filings to a magnet.

It sounds simple, but such apparent simplicity is a spark of genius. Over time, the iconography has allowed the pack to transcend its category. This is no longer another chocolate bar. Rather it's Toblerone and it resides in a category of one. For proof of its genius, consider that Albert Einstein (employed by the Swiss Federal Institute for Intellectual Property in Bern) supposedly signed off the design - some endorsement. Another myth? Perhaps. But when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

A top tip: if struggling to separate the last two segments of a big bar, use two fingers to push the mountain tips together. They will snap apart with ease. Some designs you just love, in all their dimensions. This is one of them.


TIMELINE

1868: Jean Tobler, the father of Theodor Tobler, opened a sweet shop in Bern, Switzerland.

1900: Theodor took over the company.

1908: Theodor and cousin Emil Bauman created the recipe for Toblerone. They chose a unique triangular shape for the bar.

1909: Theodor Tobler patented the process for making Toblerone and the brand.

1969: A dark version of Toblerone was launched, followed four years later by a white-chocolate version.

2007: A fruit and nut variety of Toblerone was launched.

2008: Toblerone celebrated its 100th anniversary.

2010: The chocolate bars became one triangle shorter to ensure the price stayed the same, despite the rising cost of ingredients.

View more Champions of Design

Discussion

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now

Latest

Center Parcs ad banned for encouraging parents to take kids out of school
Coca-Cola, Cadbury and Amazon named top brands for targeting youth market
Leaked document shows Nokia to be rebranded as Microsoft Mobile
Nike lays-off hardware staff in move that casts doubt on future of FuelBand
Greenpeace says save the bees or humans will die
What brands need to know about changes to VAT and online downloads in 2015
Jimmy Savile victims urged to claim compensation in new ad campaign
UKIP launches biggest  ad campaign and stirs up 'racist' accusations
Apple boss Tim Cook provides voiceover on ad touting firm's renewed green commitments
John Lewis walks consumers through its history to celebrate 150 years of business
Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers
Ex-M&S marketing chief Steven Sharp consulting at WPP
Wolff Olins reveals new CEO after Apple poaches Karl Heiselman
Glasgow offers £30,000 prize to best digital idea for 2014 Commonwealth Games
Google's revenues surge but shares drop as it grapples with transition to mobile
Facebook beats Twitter to most 'marketing friendly' social media site crown, says DMA
Fableists believe children like Finn should be outdoors enjoying life
Homebase, Baileys and Camelot join the line-up at Media360
MasterCard renews Rugby World Cup sponsorship to push cashless message
Lynx unleashes £9m 'Peace invasion' campaign
Social Brands 100 Youth: Pizza Hut most social youth brand in UK
Cheryl Cole is wild and arresting in new L'Oreal work
Morrisons told not to show alcohol ads during YouTube nursery rhymes
O2 head of brand Shadi Halliwell departs after 23 years at company in restructure
Tesco hit by further sales decline as it turns to digital Clubcard and social network