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Sunday Age

Creator smothers his green cause with a chocolate coating

Author: Carolyn Webb
Date: 30/08/1997
Words: 486
          Publication: The Sunday Age
Section: NEWS
Page: 10
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 sold.

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 Cadbury

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.

Chokka Block!

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 year

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.

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