FIRST we had the Coke Wars. Now Australian children have become the foot
soldiers in the latest battle for mum and dad's dollar.
The man whose touch is mightier than Midas, the author and advertising whiz,
Mr Bryce Courtenay, has created the Yowies - six environmentally friendly
chocolate creatures who have become the darlings of the under 10s as well as the
confectionery giant Cadbury.
In just 15 weeks since their national launch, a staggering 10 million Yowies
- who go by the names Boof, Nap, Rumble, Crag, Ditty and Squish - have been
Inside each Yowie is a biodegradable plastic capsule containing one of 56
miniature Australian animal toys: such as a snake, seal, tortoise, koala, frog
or gecko. There is also information about the animal, its habitat, and whether
it is endangered.
Mr Courtenay is passionate about his latest success and rejects any
suggestion that Yowies are simply yet another cynical grab at parents' pockets.
"It's not about making huge sums of money at all," Mr Courtenay said last
week. "We do understand how market forces work, and for once we have turned it
to the good.
"I am hugely proud of the Yowies . . . I guarantee that 10 to 15 years down
the line we are going to have some of the most sophisticated ecologists of any
country in the world . . . and it all began with Yowies."
Cadbury's confectionery marketing director, Mr Rod Slater, said Cadbury was
proud its chocolate could provide children with information about Australian
flora and fauna.
"There's nothing cynical about it . . . To say that is to do the business and
all the people who developed the idea a great injustice.
"It is a vehicle for us to tell the environmental story. It is a very very
lovely Australian idea developed by three of Australia's most talented people.
"It has captured people's imagination . . . Speak to the consumers who are
buying it. They are loving it."
The children's chocolate market is a fiercely competitive, $74 million
business in Australia.
Mr Courtenay, fellow author Geoff Pike and artist Ted Blackall approached
three years ago with the idea.
"When someone of the stature of Bryce Courtenay says he has an idea, you are
inclined to listen," Mr Slater said.
Use of toys inside hollow chocolate is not new to Australia. The Italian
company Ferrero has sold more than 100 million Kinder Surprises - one of a range
of 500 toys can be found in each egg - since they were launched in Australia in
1993. And Nestle sells Magic Balls - "eggs" that contain a novelty Disney
figurine that can be assembled.
The Australian Consumers Association last week referred to Yowies as an
example of "cause marketing" - hitching a product name to a popular cause to
sell a product.
An association nutritionist, Mr Matt O'Neill, said: "Marketers are exhausting
their bag of tricks . . . clever marketers are adding value to products by
showing their consumers that they support good causes."
Mr O'Neill said there was nothing wrong with using the environment as a
marketing tool, as long as it was more than "solely a clever veneer for a sales
pitch" and consumers were aware of what the product offered.
Yowies were released in New Zealand two weeks ago and Cadbury is considering
exporting to other markets such as gadget-mad Japan.
Top brands are :Cadbury's Freddo Frog and Caramello Koala, Ferrero's Kinder
Surprise and Mars' Milky Way
Australian confectionery sales total A$2 billion per year
Chocolate sales: $1.36 billion -
Children's chocolate market is estimated to be more than A$74 million per
Easter is the biggest selling season for chocolate confectionery - 12 to 15
per cent of annual sales occur at this time
Consumption of confectionery per capita in Australia averaged 10.5kg in 1996.
Source: Confectionery Manufacturers of Australasia.