Buried treasure: have we really seen the last of Cadbury’s chocolate coins?

A spokesman insists axing the Christmas stocking-filler isn’t a publicity stunt – but Amazon has already sold out and social media has sprung into action

There was no announcement, just a bland admission after some intrepid digging by the Telegraph journalist Harry Wallop. Cadbury have “discontinued” their stocking-filler chocolate coins. Immediately, someone started a petition (22 signatures so far). Cadbury received messages from people who were angry and confused. Twenty-four nets of last year’s coins, which by Christmas will surely have exceeded their 12-month shelf life, cannot now be bought on eBay for less than £100. Amazon has sold out completely.

Is this mass hysteria? Or perhaps something on a smaller scale? Industrial snacks do arouse high feelings in the British. There’d be an armed coup if someone discontinued Marmite or Jaffa Cakes. After their central role at this year’s Commonwealth Games, Tunnock’s Tea Cakes must be a contender for Unesco status. But do Cadbury chocolate coins really belong among their company?

According to the firm, the decision was perfectly straightforward. “They simply weren’t popular,” says Tony Bilsborough, Cadbury’s head of communications. “The product was being measured in the hundreds of thousands in terms of value. That’s very small.” In 2013, sales declined further and so, about a year ago, it was decided to stop making them. (In fact they were made by “a separate contractor” anyway.) When I ask if it is too late for Cadbury to whip up a quick batch now, I am assured, after some laughter, that it doesn’t work like that.

For those who mourn the loss of these coins, however, the Wispa offers hope. In 2002, Cadbury cancelled that because people had stopped buying it, but five years later it was back on sale, and still is today. “I personally was quoted plenty of times saying it wasn’t coming back,” Bilsborough says. “But in 2007 there was a social media campaign, and when that hit 20,000 we thought, OK, let’s put a toe in the water. We did a limited edition … and it turned out that actually people did want it back.”

So is that going to happen this time? Some conspiracists have even suggested that this is the plan, to withdraw the coins to increase demand, whipping up public feeling like so much nougat … and then graciously caving in. “This is absolutely not a stunt,” says Bilsborough. “Every indication is telling us that there isn’t a market. The thing about the Wispa is, only we made the Wispa, but a lot of people make chocolate coins. You can’t really tell who, apart from the label on the bag when you first buy it … To those people who love them, we are sorry that they’ve gone.” In five years, we’ll know how numerous those people are.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Leo Benedictus, for The Guardian on Tuesday 28th October 2014 17.10 Europe/London

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