Ellia Kassoff, CEO, Leaf Brands, said the initial run is expected to sell out quickly based on overwhelming demand from Leaf’s website pre-sale orders.
Leaf said pre-orders for Wacky Wafers rose to more than 500,000 units in four weeks, despite limited marketing.
Leaf Brands is also known for reintroducing Hydrox cookies, which are similar to Oreos, in 2015.
Kassoff said the company went to great lengths to ensure Wacky Wafers were just like consumers remembered them; the big silver-dollar sized wafers, with an invigorating smell of watermelon, orange, green apple, strawberry and banana and that “crack” sound as you break them in your mouth.
Leaf Brands officially announced the relaunch at Sweet & Snacks Expo in Chicago last year but due to manufacturing complexities, had to push the release date from July to December.
“You’d be surprised how challenging it is to make a package of five pressed dextrose wafers exactly like the originals,” said Kassoff.
“Its previous owner, Nestle/Wonka, changed the brand beyond recognition so we spent many years rolling the product back to its successful original design.
“Like many products made by large companies over time, tweaks are made, which in some cases disenfranchise core customers.
“In-fact, the once popular wafers had been gradually reduced to a small vitamin-sized candy, so loyal customers ended-up with something they didn’t like or remember.”
According to Kassoff, the company had to completely reverse-engineer the whole product and develop a sampling program using a focus group of fans of the once-popular candy.
He added, Wacky Wafers, originally part of the The Willy Wonka Candy Company line, were about the size of an American silver dollar coin and came in five flavors; banana, green apple, watermelon, orange and strawberry. The original, (and still the best version) were sold in a clear plastic wrapper, appearing as a long strip of multi-colored wafers.
Over the years, the Willy Wonka Candy Company redesigned the famous wafer many times from a smaller version, (the size of a quarter in a 10-pack will all different flavors) to the size of a Bottle Cap, (sold in long stick Spree-type packs).
Later on, they changed the shape yet again, designing them more like Flintstone Vitamins rather than a larger candy wafer and placing them in tart n' tinys type box filled with the miniature candy. Fans felt alienated since they could not find the original wafers.
Later, Wacky Wafers were discontinued as part of the regular product line when Nestlé purchased the Willy Wonka brand and they felt the wafers were too close to Sweettarts
“We’re glad it’s finally done so we can make Wacky Wafer fans happy again. The final design is the five original sized candies in their clear packaging with their original flavors; Watermelon, Green Apple, Orange, Strawberry and Banana,” said Kassoff.
Over the past five years, Leaf received hundreds of emails monthly requesting Wacky Wafers be brought back.
“When we opened our pre-orders in November we thought maybe 100-200 cases would be sold. Once we went live, the sales were unbelievable, quickly surpassing our expectations,” said Garvey Daniels, VP sales, Leaf Brands.
“In just the first four weeks we had pre-sold over 500,000 units, which is amazing since we only offered them on our webpage and to a few distributors, nothing more.”
Leaf Brands was founded in the 1920's in North America, producing classic candy such as Whoppers, Jolly Rancher and Rain Blo Bubblegum, which were later sold to Hershey Chocolate & Confectionary Corporation in the late 1990's.
Family members since acquired the Leaf Brands name and assembled together to revive the Leaf name and its famous image. Products include: Hydrox Cookies, Astro Pops, Farts Candy and Tart n’ Tinys, Bonkers Fruit Chews and Wacky Wafers.