GLENDALE, Calif. -- A limited-edition chocolate bar tied into Walt Disney's hit movie "The Lion King" has summer chocolate sales roaring for retailers and Nestle Chocolate & Confections here, a division of Nestle Foods.
The bars are a "king-size" 2.5 ounces, a size that is normally produced just for theaters, and are embossed with characters and scenes from the animated film.
A Nestle spokeswoman said the Lion King bar is the object of "the most widely accepted promotion in the history of Nestle Chocolate & Confections," with participation from many classes of trade, including grocery, drug, club, convenience and mass merchandise formats.
Since the promotion began in June, timed with the movie's release, "we did in sales what we normally would do in a year on the Nestle milk chocolate bar brand. It has just been phenomenal," said Tricia Bowles, manager of public relations for Nestle Chocolate & Confections. While production on the bars has already stopped, the promotion is scheduled to run through August.
Retailers contacted by SN agreed that the bars have been off to a good start, though many of them said it was too soon to evaluate sales figures.
"We carried the Lion King candy bars in a shipper, as a one-time item and sold them at 69 cents. They sold out quickly, in just a couple of weeks," said Emily G. Holdstein, senior vice president at Wonder Market Cos., Worcester, Mass.
"There has been a lot of publicity surrounding 'The Lion King,' and with the advertising and promotion that was done for the movie, the environment was right for them to sell out," she added.
At Redner's Markets, Reading, Pa., "we have the bars in the store and they are selling well," said Patrick Ferguson, a buyer. 'We have loose bars up front on the pallet display and we have a pallet display in our stores of the bag candy.
"I would say they are selling better than a traditional Nestle bar would at this time of year. We have them on sale at a hot price -- the loose bars are three for 89 cents and the bags are $1.99," Ferguson said.
A spokesman for Grand Union Co., Wayne, N.J., said the chain began merchandising the bars out of shippers in early July.
A buyer for Harvest Foods, Little Rock, Ark., said the chain sent big floor displays of the bars to each of its stores, but it was too soon to gauge sales results.
A number of retailers said they tied the bars into special Lion King sweepstakes.
Kings Super Markets, West Caldwell, N.J., sponsored a weeklong Lion King sweepstakes that had a large stuffed Simba lion as its grand prize, a small stuffed version as its first prize and a 9.5-pound Nestle Crunch bar as a second-place prize.
Kings advertised the promotion through its The Kings Weekly in-store flier and featured a variety of Nestle candy, ice cream and grocery items on sale.
In its stores, Kings offered $1 savings on Nestle's Fun Size bags ($1.99) and 40-cent savings on 5-ounce Nestle's Giant bars (99 cents) for its Kings Signature Club frequent-shopper members. A Kings store in Fort Lee, N.J., visited by SN had a front-end display with cardboard scenes from the movie and a contest rip-off, along with the stuffed animals.
Homeland Stores, Oklahoma City, tied the bars into a vacation giveaway. "We are selling the Lion King candy bars for 69 cents. We've chosen to go with the Nestle program that has shippers in the stores," said Lisa Sykes, director of public relations. "It has been a real good promotion, along with a drawing for a giant stuffed lion in our video department. It is being supported by radio commercials."
New York-based Red Apple Cos. had a drawing for a giant Lion King stuffed animal valued at $400 in each of its Sloan's and Gristede's stores during the week of July 10.
Nestle's Bowles said the bars have a suggested retail price of between 79 and 99 cents, but that she has seen it as high as $2.50 in some outlets.
"To think that a bar like this could go for $2.50 and is selling is amazing, and I think that's what speaks to the added value and the artistic value that the bar possesses.
"With other collectors' series that we've done, we found people were freezing the bars and trying to keep them as collectors' items. "If there were ever a collectors' item, it would be this. It is a limited-edition product, and we will not be doing it again in the foreseeable future," Bowles said.