Nestle works to build Wonka brand

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Nestle this month will bring the top-selling kids candy bar in the U.K. over to the U.S. The move is part of the marketer's new strategic focus on building Willy Wonka as its signature children's brand worldwide.

The Exploder Bar, a milk chocolate bar with a crispy crunch and sizzle-in-your-mouth, Pop Rock-like candy, will roll national later this month, along with a line of candy-coated fruit chews called Oompas.

Although Nestle has repackaged and put first-ever TV advertising against existing items over the last two years in an effort to build the Wonka brand, the new items are the first in what will be a pipeline of innovation, said Frank Arthofer, president of Nestle Chocolate & Confections, parent of the Willy Wonka Candy Factory division.

The launch of Exploder and Oompas will be backed by a national TV campaign starting in April, developed by Dailey & Associates, West Hollywood, Calif. The ads will target kids during Saturday morning network TV programming and on Nickelodeon.

They feature the tagline for the Willy Wonka brand, "What will he think of next?"

"The tagline is intended to capture the innovation and unpredictability of the brand and further the image of Willy Wonka as an inventor," Mr. Arthofer said. "Now that we've made that promise, we need to fulfill it with relevant and desirable products, and the first two are these."


In recent months, Nestle has made several moves to globalize its brands. In May, it changed the name of its Quik chocolate flavoring line to NesQuik, the name of the brand outside the U.S. In June, Nestle introduced the popular European NesQuik cereal brand in the U.S. via a partnership with General Mills.

Last month, it relaunched the global Nescafe instant coffee brand in five West Coast markets; it's scheduled for rollout in April 2001.

Wonka, which currently extends from the U.S. to Canada and has some presence in the U.K., could have potential in other countries, Mr. Arthofer said.

Since the Gene Wilder movie "Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory" -- based on a Roald Dahl book -- opened in 1971, video sales and rentals continue to drive recognition of the Wonka character among a new generation of kids.

Recognizing the viablity of the franchise, Nestle last year named Jim Griffin, longtime Nestle International executive, to head up the Illinois-based Wonka division as VP-general manager and charged him with building the brand as the marketer's international kids umbrella.


The brand's media budget exceeded $10 million this year, according to a executive close to the company. Initial TV efforts focused on building the Shock Tarts, Chewy Runts and Nerds sub-brands, this year adding spots touting Fun Dip, Pixie Stix and Laffy Taffy.

Mr. Arthofer said Nestle will increase ad spending against Wonka by 20% to 25% this year, in a continuing effort to build the brand. The brand's Web site (, already luring kids for an average of 20 minutes, also is an increasingly important medium, he said.

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