Why is Switzerland’s famous Matterhorn mountain disappearing from Toblerone bars?

Switzerland's iconic Matterhorn mountain is gradually disappearing from Toblerone's packaging to comply with "Swissness" laws. Here's what you need to know.

The Toblerone bar placed against the Matterhorn mountain in Switzerland.
The Toblerone bar placed against the Matterhorn mountain in Switzerland. Photo by Morgan Thompson on Unsplash

What’s happening?

The Alpine mountain motif, which is well known for its place on the wrapper of the world-famous chocolate bar Toberlone will melt away once the company’s new plant in Slovakia opens, it was announced this week.

Established in 1908 in the Tobler family factory, the instantly-recognisable triangular chocolate has so far been produced exclusively in Bern, the Alpine nation’s capital.

But Toblerone is opening its new plant in Bratislava in the third quarter (Q3) of 2023 “to meet increased global demand”, said the brand’s owner, US food giant Mondelez International.

That meant Toblerone had to replace “of Switzerland” on its packaging, which was revealed when the new Slovakia production line was announced in June
last year.

READ ALSO: When is something from Switzerland officially considered Swiss?

But along with “established in Switzerland” now appearing on the pack, the pyramid-shaped Matterhorn, a cherished national icon, is being replaced with a
generic triangular mountain, sparking heated debate in Switzerland.

“We have to adapt our packaging to the Swissness legislation,” a Mondelez spokeswoman told AFP.

“The pack redesign introduces a modernised and streamlined mountain logo, in line with the geometric and ‘be more triangle’ aesthetic.”

The Matterhorn image will no longer be featured on Toblerone chocolate. Image by Hans from Pixabay

However, the bear of Bern, symbol of the city, will still be hidden in the new mountain’s contours.

“More and more people will see the brand’s exciting new visual identity and packaging design, as it started to be rolled out across markets from Q3 2022,” the spokeswoman said.

Toblerone produces seven billion chocolate bars a year, with 97 percent exported to 120 countries.

They are ubiquitous at airport duty-free shops around the world, where one bar is sold every two seconds, according to Mondelez.

The name is a play on words from Tobler and “torrone” – the Italian name for honey-almond nougat.

What’s the reaction?

The Tribune de Geneve newspaper debated whether it was “commercial suicide” for Toblerone.

But Michael Kamm, owner of the communications agency Trio, said the brand was “very well established aside from its logo”, telling the daily newspaper that its shape, colours and letters were “emblematic and recognisable among a thousand”.

Fribourg University marketing professor Olivier Furrer added: “The Matterhorn is especially important for Swiss consumers, because it is a matter of pride.

“We may be offended by this change. But foreigners might not even notice.”

The news comes after Swiss pride took another hit last week.

A US appeals court ruled Friday that in the United States, the word “gruyere” is a common label for cheese and cannot be reserved just for the kind made originally in France or Switzerland, where the medieval town of Gruyeres is located.

“Cheese and chocolate are among the flagship products of the Swiss food industry,” Olivier Perrin wrote in an opinion piece published Monday by the Le Temps newspaper.

“It is therefore, for many, a shock” to find that Gruyere “can now be anything” and Toblerone is dropping the Matterhorn. Re-ouch.”

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MP up in arms over Swiss military’s choice of wine

Switzerland’s military is facing financial woes— its coffers are short of 1 billion francs to fund new arms purchases. But according to one MP, the army has a more pressing problem right now.

MP up in arms over Swiss military’s choice of wine

On March 30th, a disturbing scene happened at the military base in Thun, in canton Bern.

At a ceremony to which soldiers’ families were invited, Italian wine was served to the guests.

This faux-pas may have remained under wraps and kept as a military secret if it weren’t for the vigilance of one member of the parliament.

But this incident was not lost on MP Yvan Pahud, who, as a member of the right-wing Swiss People’s Party, is principally highly critical of any kind of international influence in Switzerland’s internal affairs — be it the country’s ties with the European Union or, in this particular case, foreign wine.

Therefore, as the National Council’s deputies debated various matters of national importance during a special session on April 15th, Pahud brought up the issue of foreign alcoholic beverages served by the army.

He argued that parents and guests who attended the event “were outraged that our Swiss army was promoting foreign wine, when  our country has its own winegrowers.”

The MPs remained neutral on this issue, and the Defence Department has yet to address this hot-button topic.

It is not known if at least some concessions to ‘Swissness’ were made at the event — that is, whether the bottles of Italian wine were uncorked with Swiss army knives.