Shortbread stooshie takes the biscuit

When is a Scottish product no longer a Scottish product? Apparently, according to some, when it is packaged in tin with a Union Jack design.

A storm in a shortbread tin has erupted online after Scottish food manufacturer Walkers decided to sell some of its famous delicacies in containers bedecked in the flag of the United Kingdom.  A picture snapped by a Scot of shortbread on sale in a German airport has sparked claims that the Moray firm is ‘destroying our Scottish brand’, while others have labelled them ‘traitors to Scotland’.

Box of Walkers shortbread – image courtesy of Walkers Shortbread Ltd

Is it really a case that the 120-year-old company has ditched its Scottish roots, or simply that it is aiming to appeal to as wide a market as possible?

Reading some of the comments that have been posted online you’d be forgiven for thinking that the firm had discarded its traditional tartan packaging.  Far from it.  Heading to Walkers’ online shop you are presented with all manner of products which are still proudly bedecked in the famous red tartan everyone has become familiar with.

The Union Jack tin that is causing a shortbread stooshie – Image courtesy of Walkers Shortbread Ltd

Nestled alongside such packaging on the virtual shelves are tins depicting other bastions of Britishness, the Routemaster bus, the black cab and even a red pillar box.  Yet these don’t seem to have caused upset.  And far from ditching packaging boasting the saltire in favour of one with a Union Jack, as has been suggested, the blue and white tin is still available online.

On closer inspection of the photograph that has got some people bumping their gums you can clearly see that sitting on shelves above, and even alongside, the offending tin at the airport are Walkers products in their familiar red tartan cartons.  When you look at the bigger picture it illustrates how the loud assertions being made by some about the firm seem to lack any real bite.

Perhaps those individuals have other more political motivations as one newspaper has suggested, or it is that they don’t want to be consumers who are offered choice.

Offering customers a selection of products to choose from makes clear business sense.  Walkers has grown from simply baking plain shortbread in an Aberdeenshire village into a global brand, respected by consumers around the world for its quality range of biscuits, oatcakes, cakes and tarts.  Alongside its plain shortbread are chocolate covered, chocolate chip, fruit, nuts and ginger varieties.  Would it have achieved such success if it hadn’t diversified its product range?

With shortbread being one of the classic products associated with Scotland, the tourist market is clearly an important one for Walkers throughout Britain and around the world.  Different nationalities will hold different images of Scotland in higher esteem than others, whether that is a Scottie dog, Nessie, Edinburgh Castle, a piper or a Highland Cow.  Being able to appeal to as wide an audience as possible is crucial and if that means using different images on packaging as a marketing tool, then so be it.

Walkers has gained a reputation for offering a quality product.  So much so that its shortbread can be bought online from Harrods.  What appeals to that high-end retailer’s customers in London, and in other businesses in the capital, will not necessarily be the same as what might catch the eye of a tourist visiting Loch Ness or Edinburgh.  Therefore, having packaging to suit different markets makes commercial sense.

A tin of Walkers shortbread © Walkers Shortbread Ltd

The Walkers name and tartan logo is emblazoned on all of its packaging, no matter its shape or principal design, meaning customers are not going to be confused about the product’s authenticity or heritage.  When it comes to marketing and promotion, brand consistency is crucial.

Such has been the stooshie that this picture has created, Walkers felt compelled to issue a statement to underline its commitment to its Scottish roots.  For a firm to be forced into such a statement in response to half-baked claims by a vocal group of individuals with political leanings takes the biscuit.

Rather than berating an important Scottish firm – one that employs 1,400 people and generates millions of pounds for the economy – because it is offering diversity, we should instead celebrate its achievements, its global appeal, its tenacity to innovate and, above all, its ability to look beyond the borders to one country in order to succeed.  After all, a successful economy is in all our biscuit eating interests.

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Coinz Meanz Beanz For Charity

A humble tin of baked beans has allowed an Aberdeen charity to coin in over £100 thanks to a local firm.

Bean tin sprouts into charity cash

The store cupboard staple sprouted into £120 for Cash for Kids thanks to Aberdeen-based marketing and communications consultancy Innes Associates. Over the past year, staff at the firm have been putting loose change into an old baked bean tin, collecting a total of £16.15 in coppers and silvers. Staff members then individually matched the amount, with the total then being doubled by the firm.

Cash for Kids is currently running its annual Coats for Kids appeal, which aims to provide warm winter clothing to hundreds of underprivileged north-east children, and will use the donation to help meet an anticipated 600 applications. The charity supports disabled and disadvantaged children and young people under the age of 18 living in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. All of the money donated to the charity is spent in the local area.

Beans and coins

Normally the preserve of the bottom of pockets and purses, coppers and silvers are often an irritation to the public, but the team at Innes Associates grew to love the pesky pennies. In total they collected £1.33 in pennies, £1.32 in 2ps, £2.90 in 5ps, £4.20 in 10ps, £5.40 in 20ps and £1 in 50ps, along with a rouge American cent.

Charlie Innes, managing director of Innes Associates, said: “This was a really simple fundraising idea and it was surprising just how much we raised as a result of some loose change. We all often curse the coppers and small silvers that rattle around in our pockets or purses, so this put them to great use for a worthwhile local charity.”

Charlie Innes, managing director, Innes Associates

Charlie Innes

Michelle Ferguson, Cash for Kids’ charity manager, said: “This was a fantastic fundraising concept and goes to show that little things can accumulate into substantial amounts. Loose change is a bugbear of many people and this is an initiative many other firms could also adopt.

Cash for Kids logo“All of the money that is raised for Cash for Kids is used to support young people here in the north-east. Instead of being used to support our Coats for Kids appeal, a donation of this value could help a family to purchase clothes, bedding and other essentials for their children, or fund quarter of the purchase cost of a specialist wheelchair for a disabled child.”

Interesting Aberdeen: City with a Ghostly Past

His Majesty's TheatreDid you know that Aberdeen is, according to some sources, one of the most haunted places in Scotland? There has been reported paranormal activity throughout the city, including at well-known venues such as Central Library, His Majesty’s Theatre, Ardoe House Hotel and Aberdeen Arts Centre. There have also been many reports of an entity grabbing peoples’ arms or legs on Union Street and holding on for several seconds before letting go. If you want to learn more about the darker and spookier side of the granite city, Hidden Aberdeen operate themed walking tours round Aberdeen. Visit www.hiddenaberdeen.co.uk for more information.