A supply chain cautionary tale...

A supply chain cautionary tale...

Wonkey Wonka


For its day it was one of the biggest marketing campaigns ever run – and it was meant to be the sales triumph of the 20th century.

The Quaker Oats Company had bought the rights to the Roald Dahl’s ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ and had everything planned for a spectacular advertising initiative – an incredible film absolutely packed with their product placement.

The book was re-named Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory for the 1971 film, in no small part due to the company’s impending new chocolate – the Wonka Bar. Quaker Oats invested US$3 million in the film.

The film debuted to mixed reviews and a tepid box office. It’s widely reported that Roald Dahl hated it. What happened next was even worse for the company. There was no chocolate to sell!

The cautionary tale of Willy Won’t-He and the Non-existent Chocolate Factory…



Reports differ here. In the documentary Pure Imagination, producer David L. Wolper claimed the bar was released but quickly recalled due to a production problem. Others state there was more than a year’s wait after the film debut before the bars hit the shelves.

While it may not have been as bad as some say (“one of the most famous supply chain failures in history”), the factory production problems nevertheless were what the kids today call a “massive fail”. Back then these kids would have had no option but to simply continue dreaming of one day eating a Wonka Bar.

We don’t know exactly what went on behind the scenes at Quaker Oats but it’s safe to assume more than a few Oompa Loompas lost their jobs over the stuff-up.

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