Image for Matterhorn Will No Longer Grace Toblerone Bars
The Matterhorn will be replaced on Toblerone packaging because of a Swiss law protecting 'Swissness'.

Slovakian Production of the Iconic Treat Violates ‘Swissness’ Law

Glaciers are melting and the Matterhorn is disappearing from the packaging of Toblerone. Global warming is responsible for the receding ice. ‘Swissness’ is responsible for the Matterhorn’s disappearance.

The makers of Toblerone, one of the world’s most well-known chocolate bars, have opened  a new production facility in Slovakia to meet increased global demand. Under Swiss law, iconic Swiss features cannot be used to promote products not made exclusively in Switzerland. The Matterhorn will be replaced on Toblerone wrappers by a more vague-looking triangular shape.

The Swissness law forcing the Toblerone packaging change was adopted as recently as 2017. David Starkle, who is in charge of enforcing the law, says the goal is to ensure that chocolate packaged as Swiss chocolate is actually Swiss chocolate. In addition to removing the Matterhorn, Toblerone must change “Toblerone of Switzerland” to “Founded in Switzerland”.

Starkle says many Swiss Toblerone consumers are angry. Toblerone’s multinational owners hope cheaper manufacturing in Slovakia will offset any loss of sales in Switzerland.

Toblerone’s main chocolate factory is in Bern, Switzerland. The company was independently owned from 1899 until 1970, when it underwent a series of ownership changes that included Kraft Foods and its purchase in 2012 by Mondelez International, a confectionary and food multinational company based in Chicago. Its other subsidiaries include Cadbury and Nabisco.

Jean Tobler opened a Bern confectionary shop in 1868. He was successful enough to build a chocolate factory in 1899. The unique Toblerone recipe of milk chocolate, nougat, almonds and honey is credited to Emil Bauman, the cousin of Theodor Tobler, who took over the factory from his father. The younger Tobler designed the unique candy shape and its matching packaging,

Matterhorn or Human Triangle?
Tobler said the triangular shape was inspired by the Matterhorn, which on a clear day can be seen from Bern. Another origin story says Tobler was at a Paris music hall and became enfatuated with the human triangle formed by women in frilly dresses. For marketing reasons, the Matterhorn seemed the better choice for Toblerone packaging.

The Toblerone brand was trademarked in 1909 by the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property in Bern. The name is a portmanteau combining Tobler with torrone, Italian for nougat.

The Slovakian chocolate factory is not the company’s first overseas manufacturing venture. Toblerone bars were produced in the last century in England, Scotland and Yugoslavia. Toblerone also was produced under license in Croatia.

Toblerone has become iconic in its own right. Scenes from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory were shot at the company’s Bern factory. A British comedy character drew laughs for his Toblerone addiction.

Strong Links to Swiss History
The chocolate bar has strong links to Swiss history and culture. Pyramid-shaped concrete anti-tank emplacements called ‘Toblerones’ were installed by the Swiss in World War II to discourage an invasion. A vintage toy Volkswagen minibus was created with a Toblerone bar on both its side panels.

Toblerone hasn’t been immune to scandal or notoriety. Theodor Tobler, who turned the small chocolate factory into an international brand, was ousted as leader of the company in the 1930s. A Swedish politician was forced to step down after the discovery she used a government-issued credit card to buy two Toblerone bars. The seven kilogram Toblerone bar made its way into the Guinness Book of World Records.

Toblerone packaging has undergone many previous changes. The eagle on original packaging was replaced with a bear, Bern’s heraldic animal, presumably as a homage to its home city. The company experimented with different recipes, packaging and product sizes, with varying degrees of commercial success. After Brexit, the Toblerone bar sold in Britain was shrunk by 10 percent, which resulted in what was branded #Tobleronegate and shrunken sales.

Toblerone is a staple at airport gift shops because it has developed an association with travel and exoticism. Many consumers view a Toblerone bar as an international indulgence.

It’s unlikely the absence of the Matterhorn on the packaging will have a huge effect on sales, at least outside Switzerland and its 8 million residents. Undiscriminating Toblerone consumers may not even notice the disappearance of the Matterhorn – or care. They would be much more concerned if the Toblerone bar tasted different than whether it retains its Swissness.