New Wonderball rolls

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To keep the "wonder" in its Wonderball alive, Nestle USA will launch a Pokemon version of the candy-filled chocolate ball this January.

Since its introduction early this year, the Nestle Wonderball line, based on Walt Disney Co. characters, has become the No. 2-selling single item for Nestle in grocery and convenience stores, according to company sales materials. With the addition of a Wonderball line based on Pokemon, the highly popular kids' franchise, Nestle hopes to continue that momentum and keep the interest of its fickle 3-to-8-year-old target.

Like its Disney-themed counterpart, Pokemon Wonderballs will feature hollow milk-chocolate balls filled with SweeTarts, color-changing SweeTarts and Spree candies. The candies, like the tattoos, holograms and glow-in-the-dark stickers found inside packages, will feature many of the more than 200 popular Pokemon characters, such as Pikachu and Bulbasaur.

To support the Jan. 29 launch, Nestle will run a national ad campaign from Dailey & Associates, West Hollywood, Calif. TV advertising on popular kids' cable and broadcast networks will run February through August. Print ads targeted to "gatekeeper" moms will run in women's service magazines late February through April and again in October through the end of the year. Radio advertising will run from March through July. Nestle will also feature the new Pokemon Wonderballs on its brand Web site (www.wonderball .com).

As of Nov. 5, Wonderball had grown to $11 million in sales in grocery, drugstores and mass outlets, according to Information Resources Inc. The candy has been a hot seller, and "the biggest problem has been keeping it in stock," according to one retail executive. The brand is ranked No. 11 among candy brands sold at grocery, No. 18 in convenience stores and No. 21 in drugstores, according to Nestle. Nestle spent $3 million in measured media on Wonderball in the first half of this year, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

Wonderball is attractive to retailers because it commands a price of $1.19 to $1.29, versus the more typical 50 cents price of most candy bars.

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