Cadbury Schweppes is resuming its link with Coronation Street in a #5 million advertising drive this autumn to rebuild confidence in its chocolate brands. The move follows the salmonella scare which caused it to withdraw and destroy more than a million items from shops and wholesalers in Britain and Ireland.
The advertising had been suspended after the recall was ordered in June. The Health Protection Agency had discovered traces in Cadbury bars of the same rare strain of salmonella blamed for nearly three times as many cases of food poisoning as the year before.
Cadbury now puts the total cost of the episode at #20 million. It attributed the contamination to a leaking pipe at its factory making chocolate "crumb" at Marlbrook, Herefordshire.
This was discovered in late January by the factory's managers and repaired at once, but no public statement was made because in-house rules required this only when there was a risk of harm to human health.
John Sunderland, Cadbury Schweppes' chairman, said yesterday he and other main board directors did not learn of the episode until June 21, two days before the recall. Todd Stitzer, the group's American chief executive, made an unreserved apology as five of the seven recalled products went back on sale.
"Although we have always acted in good faith throughout, we have caused concerns and for that I am extremely sorry," he said.
"We are implementing changes to our UK manufacturing and quality assurance processes so that this cannot happen again."
Cadbury has upgraded its internal quality control protocol with a standard of "zero tolerance testing" to ensure that its products contain no traces of contamination whatever.
Changes have been made at the Marlbrook factory and part of it was closed. Chocolate "crumb" is now shipped in bags, not tanker trucks and the receiving bay at Bournville has been adapted to handle them.
Asked if he had made any management changes, Mr Stitzer said: "At the moment, no." The important thing was to restore confidence in Cadbury products and their sales, he said.
In the four weeks since the recall, UK sales of Cadbury chocolate had fallen by 14 per cent. Part of this was due to the July heatwave. Chocolate sales always wilt in the heat. Those for rival brands are seven per cent down.
Mr Stitzer stressed that the UK accounts for only 13 per cent of Cadbury Schweppes' worldwide sales.
These came to #3.18 billion in the first six months of this year, yielding a profit of #470 million, which would have been #7 million higher without the UK chocolate recall. Another #13 million will come off profits in the second half-year, including the cost of extra advertising campaign.
The City was relieved and hoisted the shares 16 1/2p higher to 537 1/2p, making them one of the best performers in yesterday's stock market.
The Food Standards Agency is investigating why it took six months to report the contamination.