LONDON (Reuters) - Nestle <NESN.S> risked an outbreak of consumer mockery on Wednesday by launching new versions of its popular Walnut Whip candies lacking the nutty ingredient after which they are named.
The Swiss-based food maker said the new range would cater to consumers who don't like nuts, yet the launch comes as sharply rising walnut prices join a list of increasing raw material costs forcing manufacturers into a range of economy measures.
The traditional Walnut Whip is comprised of a whirl-shaped chocolate cone, filled with fondant and topped with a walnut. But this is lacking in the new vanilla, caramel and mint flavored versions.
A Nestle spokeswoman stressed that the original walnut-topped Whip - one of which is eaten every two seconds in Britain - would still be available to UK consumers.
Yet the new range is likely to be met with some scepticism as British consumers have seen some of their most popular chocolate snacks scaled back in size in response to surging ingredient prices.
In November 2016, chocolate lovers erupted into social media fury after manufacturer Mondelez <MDLZ.O> reduced the weight of a version of Toblerone bars to 150 grams from 170 grams by spacing out its triangular chocolate peaks more widely.
Other examples of so-called shrinkflation affecting the confectionary industry include Mars reducing the sizes of Maltesers, M&Ms and Minstrels packets by up to 15 percent.
"They've taken the walnut off the top of the walnut whip so now it's just a whip and I don't know who we are any more," Twitter user Debora Robertson posted in reaction to Monday's announcement.
The falling value of the pound and a poor crop last year in Chile, one of the world’s major producers, pushed up UK walnut prices by around 20 percent this year, according to Helen Graham, an importer quoted by the Guardian newspaper.
(Writing by Mark Hanrahan in London; Editing by David Holmes)