The South Australian confectionery company has signed an agreement to buy the Violet Crumble brand from the global food giant, with the help of $1.65 million in grant and loan funding from taxpayers.
The deal brings manufacture of the the Violet Crumble back to South Australia from Victoria – the latest pull in a historical tug-of-war between the two states over the brand.
The chocolate bar was invented in Melbourne in the early 1900s, then acquired by confectionery company Rowntree Hoadley and manufactured in Adelaide until 1985.
Nestlé bought the company and closed its South Australian plant, manufacturing Violet Crumble in Victoria.
Robern Menz CEO Phil Sims told reporters this morning that Nestlé had approached the family-owned SA company about six months ago to begin negotiations about the sale of the chocolate bar brand.
He denied that Nestlé’s move to offload the product suggested that Violet Crumble it had been a poor performer for the Swiss global food company.
“It’s been a fantastic performer over 100 years,” said Sims.
“Nestlé’s focus as the world’s largest food business is on global brands … the directive is to focus on those global brands.
“The much-loved Australian brands … just don’t get the same level of focus.”
He said Robern Menz – which also manufactures the National Heritage Trust-listed chocolate covered fruit balls FruChocs – would make no change to the recipe for Violet Crumble.
Asked whether the Robern Menz-branded Choc Honeycomb product would be subsumed under the Violet Crumble brand, Sims said: “That’s part of all the planning that we need to go through.”
“Violet Crumble is a powerful brand that we now own – Choc Honeycomb is a generic brand that anyone can use,” he said.
“The project through 2018 will be about the integration of Violet Crumble.”
However, a public relations spokesperson for Robern Menz later clarified, telling InDaily the company would ‘integrate’ the Violet brand “into its portfolio of brands which includes Choc Honeycomb”.
The company won a $750,000 grant from the State Government Future Jobs Fund and was given a $900,000 loan from the Investment Attraction Agency to help pull off the deal.
Premier Jay Weatherill said the taxpayer funding was a good investment, and gushed about his personal love for Violet Crumble.
“It’s about taking good businesses that have got opportunities to grow to grow a bit faster than they would otherwise,” the Premier said.
“In the last six years, I don’t think I’ve been involved in a more important announcement than this,” he joked.
“It’s a great day – I love Violet Crumble and so many South Australians love Violet Crumble.”
Weatherill said the chocolate bar would be treated with more “love, care and attention” in South Australia than it had in Victoria.
Sims would not disclose the cost of the acquisition, but said the deal would create 30 new jobs at his company’s Glynde factory.
“Whilst our deal with Nestlé remains confidential, Robern Menz is investing a further $4 million in 2018 on a factory refit (and an) extension of warehousing facilities to further support the production of Violet Crumble,” he said.
“Robern Menz will ensure that Violet Crumble is produced with no change to its recipe and with the same passion and affinity Australians have had towards the brand since 1913, which is when it was first produced.”
Sims said that the transfer of manufacturing, sales and marketing of the Violet Crumble would occur gradually during 2018, and be complete by around September.
He added that Robern Menz was also likely to invest in a significant marketing campaign to promote the product.
“The last national advertising campaign on Violet Crumble was in the 1990s – there hasn’t been much since,” he said.
“I think there’s a new generation that Violet Crumble hasn’t been marketed to.”
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