Whittaker’s new CMO blends tradition with innovation

Relocating from the picturesque streets of France to the windy hills of Wellington, Soraya Cottin says her move to Aotearoa for the role of Whittaker’s new Chief Marketing Officer is like a dream come true.

The first time Soraya discovered the Whittaker’s brand was when her Kiwi partner received care packages full of Whittaker’s chocolate from family at Christmas time when they were living in France together.

Since then, she’s become a lot more familiar with the brand, taking up the role of Chief marketing Officer in May 2023.

Having only been living in New Zealand for around three months at the time of speaking to NZ Marketing, Soraya says she is loving the experience so far, and has previously spent time here with her partner, who is from Wellington.

“I feel like every day I discover and learn so many things,” she says. “I just love the Kiwi culture and the people are amazing as well. I love the nature.”

Her appointment, coupled with Whittaker’s recent appointment of its new creative agency Bastion Shine, is an important one for the brand and Soraya brings a valuable international perspective to how the brand can continue to build on its reputation.

“While this appointment reflects Whittaker’s ability to attract international talent, we’re also pleased that Soraya’s personal connection to Wellington, the home of Whittaker’s, has also helped make the decision to move here an easy one,” says Whittaker’s Co-Chief Operating Officer Holly Whittaker.

After discovering a love for marketing early on, and studying it at university, Soraya’s career began agency-side in London with Oreo as her main client. After some years there she returned to France and worked for a number of different international brands including McDonald’s.

“I really loved how structured they were as a brand. I think they were probably the best marketeers in France, and I learned a lot from that. I still think about them a lot being here at Whittaker’s because it was a really good marketing lesson to work for them.”

As her career progressed, she continued to be attracted to food brands, working with Nespresso, a few alcohol brands and then taking a dive into various other industries such as online banking, betting, transport and non-governmental organisations.

This extensive experience across a range of sectors has given Soraya with a unique perspective on the brand, which she says she finds useful when looking for different marketing solutions or strategies. Her agency experience has also set her up well to work collaboratively with Bastion Shine.

“We all have a lot to learn from each other. And that’s really what I want, to build a strong relationship that is going to be collaborative and very impactful for Whittaker’s.”

While excited and honoured to work for an iconic brand, she recognises that working for the Reader’s Digest Most Trusted Brand 12 years in a row, comes with great responsibility.

“It means we need to keep doing what we know and to do it the best way possible as always. Doing the right thing, making sure we are always using the best quality in our products.

“Whittaker’s does this by sourcing ingredients with the quality in mind, looking for the finest ingredients in New Zealand, all around the globe, making sure everything we do, we do it to create a good, honest chocolate in the end.”

She believes if the company continues to do that, the brand will continue to earn that trust and love from chocolate lovers.

“At Whittaker’s, everyone is really passionate about chocolate and about doing the right thing. So it’s a responsibility, but in a way, it doesn’t change the way we do things. Quality has always been our focus, and it will always be our focus.”

One observation she has made since moving to Aotearoa and being immersed in the local industry is that customers have a strong sense of pride for New Zealand-made products, which perhaps isn’t as strong in other countries.

“Kiwis are really proud of New Zealand and because they’re proud of New Zealand they’re really loving brands that are Kiwi brands. Compared to some other brands I worked for in other markets, it’s way stronger here in New Zealand.”

In some ways this makes her job easy. However, the Whittaker’s brand is almost 130 years old, and with that comes the challenge of maintaining customer loyalty while keeping things fresh and adapting to the changing demands of consumers.

“Sometimes when you come with such a strong heritage, it could be hard to remain fresh, but I think at Whittaker’s, innovation has always been part of the DNA as well of the brand. Innovation is the key to remain fresh, to remain modern, to keep surprising and delighting our chocolate lovers. That’s probably how we are going to remain really fresh, by challenging ourselves to make sure that we bring exciting news for our chocolate lovers.”

And speaking of chocolate lovers, we wonder if Soraya has a favourite Whittaker’s flavour? After some thought, she says it changes every day, but on this particular day it’s Almond Gold.

“Now that I try more products, I feel like every day I’m kind of changing which one is my favourite one. It’s crazy, but I really kind of love them all.”

As Soraya and the team at Whittaker’s continue their journey of innovation and passion for crafting quality chocolates, it’s clear their commitment to both tradition and novelty will keep the brand strong and cherished for generations to come.

So, the next time you snap off a square of Whittaker’s, remember it’s not just about enjoying a treat—it’s about relishing a Kiwi icon.

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About Bernadette Basagre

Bernadette is a content writer across SCG Business titles, The Register and Idealog. To get in touch with her, email [email protected].

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