Nestle product extends shelf life of Disney tie-ins

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Nestle Chocolate & Confections hopes it won't drop the ball this time. The company is launching Wonderball, a Disney-themed candy-filled chocolate line similar to a failed 1997 product.

Wonderball is Nestle's attempt to find a product that allows the company to leverage its licensing agreement with Walt Disney Co. year-round.


The Nestle USA division marketed chocolate bars and other candy available for a limited time that tie in with the theater and video releases of animated Disney movies, such as "A Bug's Life" and "Toy Story." But Wonderball was created to leverage all the Disney properties regardless of current releases.

The 1997 Magic line of hollow chocolate balls containing plastic Disney figurines was discontinued after just months because of charges that the product posed a choking hazard. This time around, Nestle plans to fill the chocolate ball with edible sugar candies, such as SweeTarts, and prizes are to be placed in the box, not inside the candy ball. In March of last year, Nestle agreed to pay a total of $1.5 million to 12 states for violating their food and safety standards with the Magic products.

Wonderball will be supported with an estimated $10 million media effort. TV advertising scheduled for March through September on cable and broadcast networks is geared to the product's 3- to 7-year-old target. Print ads targeted to moms will run in women's service magazines in March through May issues and again in November and December. Radio advertising is scheduled for March on Radio Disney. A Web site ( will also support the launch year-round. Nestle declined to name the agency handling the advertising, but Dailey & Associates, West Hollywood, Calif., handles much of the advertising for Nestle Chocolate & Confections.

Nestle had initially tested the Wonderball concept under the name Bug Ball, a limited-time product tied to Disney's "A Bug's Life," but Wonderball "is unique because it ties in to all Disney movies," said an executive close to the company.


The new line will feature SweeTarts versions of characters from such Disney properties as "Aladdin," "The Lion King," "Pocahontas" and "Toy Story," as well as prizes inside the box that change every four months. The first planned is a series of 48 different stickers of various Disney characters. Nestle will also change the properties it features and the type of candy to offer "continual surprise and excitement for kids," according to company materials.

Retailers -- who are being offered a variety of ways to merchandise the new Wonderballs, including on-counter displays -- are mixed in their reaction to the product, despite the popularity of Disney.

While some said they will likely carry the product, one East Coast retail executive said, "I rejected [Wonderball] because I didn't think it was going to sell with what they put inside."

Nestle spent $44.6 million against its candy brands in 1998, $41.2 million in the first 10 months of 1999, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

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