Friday, 2 October 2009

Manner from Heaven

Rushing through Vienna airport a couple of days back, I was stopped in my tracks by a vision of pink and blue - the shop of the Austrian cult brand Manner.

Now, us Brits are not very good at wafers. In fact, it was the suspiciously pink wafers that always got left to last in one of those Peek Freans or Rover Family assortment tins. But the continentals leave the pink colouring to the packaging (actually a rather salmony hue). Original Manner neopolitan wafers are made with hazelnuts from Naples, no less.

Josef Manner I - the chap with the impressive waxed moustache above - created his 5-layer wafer with 4 layers of hazelnut cocoa cream in 1898. His company was founded in 1890 on the democratic principle of "chocolate for all - good in taste and value" : really quite forward-looking back in those Imperialist days. And it may be the "living out" of this principle that has carried the brand forward to its strong cult status today.

Many brand managers may have felt the urge to tinker with the packaging over the years, but thank goodness they didn't. The pack design and colour is celebrated across the range of brand merchandise available on the website, from flip-flops and a rather cute cuddly babygrow through to the "sandbag" - the ultimate beach accessory with inbuilt speakers.

Manner is a textbook example of a brand getting it right, not just in what it says, but in what it does. The brand has expanded but remained true to its Viennese roots - the first brand shop opened in Vienna in 2004 in the Stephansplatz, where Josef Manner I first opened his business in 1890. And while other brands blab on about Corporate Social Responsibility as the latest buzzword box to be ticked, Manner have been quietly getting on with it. For the last 30 years, they have paid the stonemasons for the upkeep of Manner's trademark, the Stephansdom.

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