SYDNEY: Snack manufacturer Arnott's is digging in as customer outrage continues in response to a recipe change at Shapes, one of Australia's favourite snack brands.

Arnott's executives are defending the changes, and a back-down seems unlikely despite the widespread customer backlash and derision on social media which has forced the brand to invest significantly to manage the damage.

According to Mumbrella, Arnott's has invested in a new IT set-up to manage social media monitoring following the release of the controversially revamped range, which arrived in Australian grocery stores a few weeks ago. The brand has boosted resources for its customer service and social media teams to deal with the response.

Arnott's has also invested in an outdoor campaign by TKT Sydney to support the newly launched flavours. The company was forced to reassure customers that it will keep the original recipe for at least two varieties.

Already, millions of dollars have been spent so factories can produce the new flavours, which were launched following extensive research. The changes were made, Arnott's says, to keep pace with changing consumer tastes in Australia.

But it seems the brand has been caught off guard by the scale of the backlash.

"Our number one complaint on Shapes has consistently been that there isn't enough flavour," said Arnott's Marketing Director for Savoury, Sarah Ryan, in comments to Mumbrella.

"If you look in the snack foods category, there has been a lot of innovation delivering fuller and more sophisticated flavours – this has meant our measure of the Shapes 'flavour hit' has been declining over recent years."

But as an assessment of a previous consumer reaction to a recipe change at a cherished brand – Coca-Cola – concluded: "Consumers … did not judge a product on taste alone but on a host of associative factors that consumer research could not possibly measure."

Meanwhile, Australians are busy on eBay buying up the old flavours for more than $50 a box.

Data sourced from Mumbrella, Herald Sun; additional content by Warc staff