Britain's favourite chocs have had a makeover – and it's left JAN MOIR with a bitter aftertaste: The Lady loves Milk Tray Not anymore
07:09 GMT, 16 April 2012
A handsome man stares at the dark sea below him, his gaze sweeping over a yacht anchored in the bay. Wind ruffles his hair. His expression Resolute.
With one swoop, he dives off the cliff into shark-infested waters. No fear, m’dears! His precious chocolate booty is encased in some sort of waterproof, rubberoid material, deep inside his 007-type briefcase. Whatever happens next, his nut clusters are safe.
Before you can say milk or plain, he is splashing across the yacht’s deck towards a cabin, where he leaves the precious box of chocolates with his calling card.
Wrong selection: The new Milk Tray box has left many customers angry by the poor choice of chocolates
‘And all because the lady loves Milk Tray,’ says the silky voiceover.
Well, maybe she did back then. But she sure doesn’t any more.
For something has gone horribly, horribly wrong with our beloved Milk Tray chocolates. The famous selection box of chocs, launched by Cadbury in 1915, has been a much-prized treat in this country for most of the past century.
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Good old Milk Tray has endured through boom and bust, fads and fashions, diets and dairy intolerance. Yes, even through those cheesy, James Bond-style TV advertisements of yore, when the debonair hero would risk his life and drip-dry black polo neck just to deliver some strawberry crmes to the lady of his dreams.
Recently, however, websites and social networking forums have been peppered with angry complaints about Milk Tray. There are concerns that Milk Tray chocolates now taste, to put it bluntly, more than a little crummy. There are also accusations that old favourites in the selection have been reformulated or dropped, and that the chocolate itself is a pale shadow of what it once was.
Tell me it’s not true. Not to our treasured Milk Tray! Remember that lovely chocolatey waft when the lid was first popped open The rustle of the padded menu card that listed all the different types The first glimpse of the chocolates themselves, crouching obediently in their individual berths, a battalion of taste grenades ready to be detonated
Milk Tray were never the poshest chocolates, but they were always a treat; a luxury to be unwrapped at Christmas after the turkey and plum pudding.
On special Saturday nights, boxes of Milk Tray would be passed along millions of sofas as families settled down to watch Morecambe & Wise or The Generation Game. I can still recall the syrupy spurt of the barrel-shaped lime cordial, the pink and white centre of the coconut ice, the marzipan sandwich one that no one liked.
Most of all, I remember the gloating coat of thick, glossy Cadbury’s chocolate that covered each and every one. Yum! You could keep your hand-dipped Swiss bonbons — generations of British children understood that Cadbury made the greatest chocolate in the world.
But that was then and this is now.
The Milk Tray scandal first began in a whisper of choc-born malcontent across the internet. The trickle of grumbles got bigger. Anguished chocaholics vented their disappointment and frustrations on Twitter and other social networking sites.
Iconic: Gary Myers as the black-clad hero delivering Milk Tray in the Seventies was a hit television advert
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Dedication: The craggy chocolate box clutching hero jumped from
helicopters, skied over cliffs and abseiled across our screens for 26
I could go on, but to summarise, all the chocolates are smaller, meaner, with less distinct flavours and appeal.
Even worse, of the ten Milk Tray varieties available, two are caramel, three are nut-based and one is a hopeless fudge dream – and that is choccy cheating. Where are the lovely lime cordials, the divisive love ’em or hate ’em coffee crmes Where are the strawberry fayres, nougats or almond whirls of yesteryear All gone, I’m afraid, replaced by a pick and mix of mediocrity.
Of course, the choccy complaints have surfaced two years after the controversial 11 billion takeover of Cadbury by American food giant Kraft foods.
Kraft promised it would not relocate its factories abroad, then promptly did exactly that, to that infamous centre of chocolate and confectionery excellence – Poland.
It caused outrage and the loss of thousands of British jobs, proving that the Kraft promises were as hollow as a chocolate Easter bunny.
Are they to blame for the downfall of Milk Tray To be fair, the first Cadbury investment in Poland dates back to 1993.
Six years later, it bought a historic Polish brand Wedel, together with a Warsaw-based Wedel factory. The building of new laboratories and office space have continued apace since 2008. Cadbury is now one of the biggest foreign investors in Poland – their gain is our loss.
Of course, it is not just in Poland that chocolate production uses cheaper ingredients such as soya and vegetable oils.
Buyout: Manufacturers Cadbury were taken over by American food giant Kraft Foods for 11 billion
Like the new Milk Tray, it can leave a terrible aftertaste and a queasy feeling, as if you had been eating choco-sludge. Ick! I hate to say it but the new, unimproved Milk Tray is torture; death by chocolate, but not in a good way.
As national scandals go, it’s right up there with cash for honours, the Lavender List, Pastygate and that time Deirdre from Coronation Street was jailed for a crime she did not commit.
What an ignominious end for an iconic British brand, one that still makes us laugh with its corny old advertising campaigns and its heartfelt belief that chocolate was a reason to live – and to love.
Considerations such as profit margins, shelf life and transportation may be paramount at Cadbury HQ.
Yet there was a time when Cadbury’s Milk Tray was a delicious product, not to mention the vehicle for an advertising fantasy that suggested a chocolate was all it took for men to have their wicked way with the little lady.
A strawberry crme! I think I’ll take my dress off.
Well, as I said, that was then and this is now. And it is not going to happen with the honey love or the orange truffle any time soon. That’s for sure.