Visiting Tip Top’s website is like spending an afternoon at Motat – initially you swell with nostalgia about simpler times, then you settle into faint boredom, before you leave and gratefully re-enter the 21st century.
Choc Bar, Jelly Tip, Rocky Road, Fruju, Popsicle: they’re famous Kiwi brands in their own right, but when’s the last time you bought one? The people who fondly remember them from their own youth are now training for a half marathon, on a keto diet because they’re looking down the barrel of sixty.
They’re probably not buying much Tip Top ice cream, though they might indulge in a sneaky scoop of Kāpiti lemongrass and ginger when no one’s watching.
Last week Fonterra admitted it was definitely divesting itself of Tip Top. Apparently, the brand has “reached its maturity as an investment” for the cooperative.
It’s at least the fourth time the brand has been sold since Albert Hayman and Len Malaghan opened their first ice cream parlour in Wellington’s Manners Street in 1936.
Heinz Wattie owned it, then the Australians, then it came into the Fonterra stable via Kiwi Dairies and the mega co-op merger.
From where I’m sitting, however, the latest ownership hasn’t seemed to have understood that for Tip Top to thrive, they needed to let it grow up.
Instead, it’s been trapped in 1964 (the year the Trumpet was born) since, you guessed it, 1964.
When Fonterra put Tip Top into their shopping cart in 2001 it would have had a strategic imperative to add a consumer brand or two into its portfolio. But the trouble with fast-moving consumer goods is those first two words.
If you’re not moving as fast as the consumer these days, you’re eating dust not boysenberry ripple.
The Memphis Meltdown is clearly Tip Top tipping its hat to the luxury end of the market, and the recent Whittakers partnership is sound.
But it’s too little too late when the freezers in the dairy and the supermarket see us spoiled for choice.
A new owner could be exactly what Tip Top needs.
Tip Top could still own summer; it could still own childhood freedoms and it could still own family treat time. But the product portfolio, the brand story, and every aspect of its marketing need to be turned on their heads.