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Yowie is a confectionery and publishing brand originating in Australia in 1995 by Cadbury and Kidcorp. It was one of the top selling chocolates in Australia in the late 1990s and early 2000s, selling over a million units a week. After a break of nearly a decade, Yowie relaunched in 2014 for US markets.
Yowie began as the brainchild of English-born advertising man, illustrator and author Geoff Pike. After serving in the navy, Pike jumped ship in Australia, finding work as a jackaroo on remote cattle stations. He became enchanted by Australia’s outback and its unique wildlife, and devoted his free time to nursing injured and orphaned animals back to health.
Many decades later, after a successful career in advertising, Pike drew on these early bush experiences and his love of wild places to create the Yowie Kingdom, a fictional magical realm free of the destructive influence of humanity, where threatened wildlife finds a safe haven.
Inspired by Australian folklore, Pike borrowed the mythical man-like creature the Yowie, reputed to roam the Australian bush. To watch over the fictional Yowie Kingdom and its animals and plants, Pike created six Yowie characters, each related to a well-known Australian animal, and each one guardian of key wild habitats:
- Boof the Bottlebrush Yowie, cousin of the bandicoot, protector of rainforests and mountains
- Crag the Mangrove Yowie: cousin of the crocodile, protector of swamps and wetlands
- Ditty the Lillipilli Yowie: cousin of the wombat, protector of woodlands and meadows
- Nap the Honeygum Yowie: cousin of the koala, protector of forests and bushland
- Rumble the Redgum Yowie: cousin of the red kangaroo, protector of deserts and plains
- Squish the Fiddlewood Yowie: cousin of the platypus, protector of rivers and streams
Additional characters included animal companions for each of the six Yowie and Balthizar the Bunyip, ruler of the Yowie Kingdom. To represent the threats facing the world’s natural habitats and threatened species, Pike created the Grumkin, careless creatures constantly seeking to destroy the harmony of the Yowie Kingdom. The Grumkins were: Munch (careless building, enemy of Rumble), Blob (pollution, enemy of Crag), Ooz (also pollution, enemy of Squish), Spark (careless firelighting, enemy of Nap), Slob (littering, enemy of Ditty) and Chomp the Tiger Toothed Tree Chomper (deforestation, enemy of Boof).
Continuing with the development of the Yowie concept and characters, Pike enlisted the aid of long-time friend, fellow advertising man and best-selling author Bryce Courtenay. They hit upon the idea of a confectionery product as a vehicle for Yowie, and in 1994 pitched the concept to confectionery giant Cadbury.
After three years developing the characters and the manufacturing process, in 1997 Cadbury launched Yowie as a foil-wrapped character-shaped milk chocolate shell containing a plastic capsule. Within the capsule was a multi-part collectable model of a native Australian or New Zealand animal, together with a leaflet featuring information, a photo of the animal and assembly instructions for the collectable. The first series featured 50 animals, plus figurines of each of the six Yowie characters.
Cadbury Yowie was selling over one million units weekly and in its first year sold 2.5 Yowies for every man, woman and child in Australia. The brand won multiple industry awards in Australia and internationally, including Best Global Supermarket Product and Best Global Confectionery Product at the 1997 Sial international food industry awards in Paris.
A Yowie collector scene soon emerged with collector clubs forming across Australia and New Zealand and websites devoted to displaying and swapping Yowie collectables.
Cadbury Yowie was also released in Singapore, Japan and the UK.
Publishing and merchandising
To coincide with the release of Cadbury Yowie, a series of Yowie books was released, telling the stories of the Yowie characters as they protect their domains from the threat of the Grumkin. Written by Geoff Pike and Bryce Courtenay and illustrated by award-winning artists Christopher Minos and Helen Steele, the series sold more than 2 million copies, topping the Australian best-seller lists for children’s books.
Numerous lines of Yowie merchandise were produced, including soft toys, clothing, games, activity books, and Yowie music CDs.
Further Yowie series
Following the success of the first series of Yowie collectables, a second series was released in 1998, this time featuring 50 new animals.
The third series of Yowie, released in early 1999, was composed of 50 figurines and 6 limited edition mini Grumkins. This series remained the most common of all the series, extending into 2002, with further scattered releases until the series ended in 2005.
The fourth series was released in late 1999 and featured ‘Yowie World’ collectables, with animals from beyond Australia and New Zealand, as well as 6 limited edition crystal Yowies, 6 ‘Yowie playmates’ and a Lord Balthizzar figurine. It remained the second-most popular series, extending until 2005.
Yowie and the Lost Kingdoms
In 2000, Yowie teamed up with the Australian Museum to create Yowie and the Lost Kingdoms, the series of collectables featuring extinct animals from around the world and across the geological ages, including dinosaurs and other reptiles as well as extinct Australian megafauna. The Lost Kingdoms series was based on illustrations by Dr Anne Musser of the Australian Museum and masterminded by the director of the museum Dr Michael Archer. The museum presented an exhibition of fossils and reconstructions linking to the series. Additionally, the packaging got overhauled so that the wrappers of the Lost Kingdoms Yowies could be distinguished by the sign and shovel being held in their paws.
Series A had 50 prehistoric figurines and 6 limited edition skulls. It was later replaced by Series B, released in 2001, which had 30 figurines and 6 limited edition glow-in-the-dark dinosaurs. In 2002 the third and final series, Series C, was released, with 30 figurines and 6 limited edition dazzling dinosaurs.
In 2001, Yowie Adventures was released, based around comic-strip stories in which the Yowie and their friends save endangered animals from the onslaught of the Grumkin. The series had 30 figurines, and was often regarded as the rarest series,considering supplies seemed limited. It is the most highly sought-after series of all Yowies. The series consisted of 6 animals, 6 enemies, 6 "yurts", 6 helpers and 6 transports. The series was updated in 2002 with a second release with 30 figurines, similar to the previous series, except more animals appeared in this series and the Yowie and helpers were replaced with Grumkins and helpers.
Yowie Forgotten Friends
In 2003 and 2004, Yowie Forgotten Friends was released. Featuring recently extinct animals, the series highlighted the increasing levels of species extinction and the importance of protecting threatened wildlife and habitats. The Forgotten Friends Series A comprised 30 figurines, with six glow-in-the-dark Yowie. In 2004, Series B of the Forgotten Friends range was released, this time with five limited edition glow-in-the-dark Grumkins. Spark was left out as it was regarded as a bad message to children.
Production of Cadbury Yowie was discontinued in 2005 following a dispute between Cadbury and the Yowie creators. In 2012 a new company, Yowie Group, was formed to relaunch the brand. A series of 24 solid one-piece collectables, including 18 animals and six Yowie character models, was designed and manufactured. The one-piece format enabled far more lifelike collectables as well as improved product safety.
The first series features the following animals:
- African Grass Owl
- American Bison
- Brown Bear
- Common Clownfish
- Emperor Penguin
- European Rabbit
- Fennec Fox
- Galapagos Tortoise
- Giant Anteater
- Giant Panda
- Gray Wolf
- North American Beaver
- Polar Bear
- Red Kangaroo
- Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat
Production of the chocolate and final assembly was taken over by Whetstone Chocolates, based in Florida.
In July 2014, the first new Yowie products went on sale in the US.
Yowie products returned to Australian retail shelves in April 2017.
- Yowie Chocolates Relaunched for US Markets
- "Yowie Wrapped to Launch in US". Retrieved 29 August 2014.
- "The Importance of Cause Related Marketing:A Cadbury Schweppes Case Study". Retrieved 29 August 2014.
- Chung, Frank (April 19, 2017). "Yowies are finally back in Australia". News.com.au. Retrieved 23 July 2018.