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The Sydney Morning Herald

Eco-treat a tasty way to save the world

Author: By LEONIE LAMONT
Date: 22/08/1997
Words: 387
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: NEWS AND FEATURES
Page: 5
If authors and admen Bryce Courtenay and Geoff Pike have their way, the Yowie guardians Rumble, Nap, Ditty, Boof, Squish and Crag will turn out a generation of kids knowledgeable about the Australian environment.

And on the way they'll have eaten millions of Cadbury's Yowie chocolates; bought the Yowie books and cassettes and Power Pack, visited nature parks, collected the toys, bought the plush toys and T-shirts ...

The Yowie phenomenon, thought up more than a decade ago by Geoff Pike and brought to fruition with the collaboration of Bryce Courtenay, has seen Cadbury invest more than $17 million.

Since its launch 10 weeks ago, Cadbury has sold a million a week of the moulded chocolates that contain a native animal toy.

And while the best children's book in the country can expect sales of 20,000, there has been a 1.5 million print run of the six Yowie books. There is talk of films, and also an Internet site.

The Japanese market wants to take the concept on board, while other countries are interested in having their own animals and plants brought to them via a chocolate Yowie.

While the Yowie presses the right eco-buttons, its merchandising and product-driven nature sits uneasily with purists. But, say Pike and Courtenay, without the merchandising and Cadbury's involvement, the impact would be minimal.

"It's not about making huge sums of money at all," says Courtenay. "It's about doing something properly. Geoff and I have been in advertising for 35 years.

"We do understand how market forces work, and for once we have turned it to the good. I am hugely proud of the Yowies, and I wouldn't even try to defend the fact that they are encased in chocolate ... I guarantee that 10 to 15 years down the line we are going to have some of the most sophisticated ecologists of any country of the world ... and it all began with Yowies."

Pike and Courtenay retain creative control of the Yowie merchandising and advertising. Pike says it took two years to come up with biodegradable plastic for the collectable toys, which are manufactured and hand-painted in China.

Competition in the $75 million moulded chocolate market is fierce. The home-grown Yowie looks set to entice children away from the Italian Kinder Surprise. Nestle' has just launched a Magic Ball with Disney collectable toys, but so far it is a low-key affair.

Pike's Sydney home is part of a private bird sanctuary, and his books, in which the Yowie guardians protect the environment against the rapacious Grumkins, were penned overlooking the birds and trees and water-filled gully. In fact, if you look hard enough you might see Squish the Fiddlewood Yowie who keeps the rivers clean ...

 
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