Willy Wonka’s Outstanding Oompas!

Willy Wonka’s Oompas – isolated from trade ad – 1972

Willy Wonka’s Oompas stand as one of my all-time favorite candy treats.  I loved them as a kid, and I’ve really enjoyed digging into the history of them as a collector.

For those who don’t remember, Oompas were like an over-sized M&M candy, but filled with half-chocolate and half-peanut butter.  I recall that upon the introduction of Reese’s Pieces in the later 70’s, I was befuddled as they seemed less like pieces of Reese’s than Wonka Oompas, which had been around for years.

As I pointed out in my teaser post two days ago, the Willy Wonka candy brand was launched in late 1971 with two products; Peanut Butter Oompas and Super Skrunch.

Quaker Oats Wonka candy launch – trade clipping – September 1971

The earliest design for Oompas featured a full-length Willy Wonka mascot on the package.  This was in place when they were initially released from Quaker, and probably lasted a year or two under Concorde-Sunmark.  Here’s a page from a salesman catalog of the time:

Willy Wonka’s Salesman book – Oompas – 1971 - Courtesy Dan Goodsell

And here’s an image of an early Oompas display box:

Early 70’s Willy Wonka’s Oompas display box – Courtesy Dan Goodsell

I’d like to point out that I’ve never come across an actual example of an early 70’s “full-body Wonka” Oompas package.  I’ve only turned up images from ads and other materials from that period in the evolution of the brand.

Here’s an interesting clipping from another kind of advertisement.  I’m not sure if this was meant to represent a version of an actual package, or was simply a mock-up for the ad in question:

Early 70’s Willy Wonka’s Oompas ad clipping – Courtesy Traci’s Retro

The earliest example of an actual Oompas pack I can show today comes from my pal Dan Goodsell’s collection.  This pack is a style I recall vividly from my own youth.

Sunmark-Concorde – Willy Wonka’s Peanut Butter Oompas – early 1970’s - Courtesy Dan Goodsell

The classic Willy Wonka mascot remained prominently on packs likely until 1975, which would be in line with what I’ve found for Super Skrunch.  By 1976, Oompas packs had transitioned to a design that no longer featured a full-color illustrated mascot.  Instead, the mascot would be incorporated into the Willy Wonka logo itself:

Sunmark-Concorde – Willy Wonka’s – Peanut Butter Oompas – 20-cent tube pack – 1976

1976 was also likely the time when Oompas began to be offered in standard packs and “tube packs” which were more narrow, but also longer.  I believe both pack styles were offered concurrently, as you can see with this pair of 1977-dated packages:

Sunmark-Concorde – Willy Wonka’s – Peanut Butter Oompas – tube pack – 1977

Sunmark-Concorde – Willy Wonka’s – Peanut Butter Oompas – package – 1977 – Courtesy Brandon Coker

The following year in 1978, Oompas saw the focus put on an adjustment to their flavors, when they became Peanut Butterier. 

Sunmark-Concorde – Willy Wonka’s – Now Peanut Butterier Oompas – candy package – 1978

If you read yesterday’s piece on Super Skrunch, you should notice some parallels to how the two products were marketed.   As with the Super Skrunch, in 1979, Oompas packs were increased to offer “More Candy!”:

Sunmark-Concorde – Willy Wonka’s – Now Peanut Butterier Oompas – candy package – 1979

In 1980, Oompas got quite a flavorful addition to the brand, when a short-lived flavor spinoff was released with Strawberry Oompas:

Sunmark-Concorde – Willy Wonka’s – New Strawberry Oompas – candy package – 1980 – Courtesy CandyWrapperMuseum.com

I can’t be sure, but it’s likely that 1980 saw a similar design for Peanut Butter Oompas, but thus far I’ve been unable to track down a standard 1980 package.

As was evident during my research of the Super Skrunch brand, the early years of the corporate transition from Concorde Confections to Willy Wonka Brands division was a time of change, and saw the final Oompas offered.

From 1981, here’s the last-known version of the original Willy Wonka’s Oompas run:

Sunmark – Willy Wonka Brands – Double Flavored Oompas – candy package – 1981

For reasons we can now only speculate on, Willy Wonka’s Oompas were discontinued, likely last on shelves in 1982.

Two decades later, now under Nestle, the Wonka Oompas brand would be revived in the UK.  But rather than bringing back the original Oompas, this new version was a product similar to Harry Potter Bertie Botts jelly beans novelty flavors:

UK – Nestle – Wonka – Oompas – candy package – 2001 - Courtesy Brandon Coker

Later, in the mid-2000’s and in the USA this time, Wonka Oompas got another try with a fruit-flavored treat:

Nestle – Willy Wonka – Oompas fruit flavored candy – 2005 – Courtesy CandyBlog.net

It seems as though the New Zealand arm of Wonka still had these on shelves as late as 2009 – with a variation on the packaging found in the United States:

New Zealand – Nestle Wonka – Oompas – candy package – 2009 - Courtesy Steve Williams

None of the new Oompas offerings appears to have lasted very long, and today the world is once again Oompa-less.

It would be great if the current candy-makers at Wonka could find a way to bring back the original Oompas and Super Skrunch – something they’ve never tried to do.   I suspect that production issues might make that difficult or impossible, but I do think a retro release of the original Peanut Butter Oompas would be met with cheers from the streets by many adults who would remember them fondly.  So my inner-child continues to dream.

I’d like to offer one last whimsical look back at the original treats that started the Wonka candy brand.  This is a trade ad that was entirely illustrated, and I quite like the look of it.

Quaker Oats – Willy Wonka – Super Skrunch – Oompas – trade ad August 1972

And that’s everything on this outstanding classic Wonka treat — Oompas.  I continue to hope they may one day make a return, but if they don’t, I’ll always remember them with great fondness.

See you next time!

About Jason Liebig

A New York City based writer, editor and sometimes actor. After spending much of the 1990′s in the comic book business helping tell the stories of Marvel Comics’ X-Men as series editor, he has since split his time between developing his own entertainment properties while still consulting and working on others. Having been described as “the Indiana Jones of lost and forgotten candy”, Jason is one of the country’s premier candy collectors and historians with his discoveries appearing in countless blogs, magazines, newspaper articles, and books. Always happy to share his knowledge and unique perspectives on this colorful part of our popular culture, Jason has consulted with New York’s Museum of Food and Drink and has also been a featured guest on Food Network’s Heavyweights, France’s M6 Capital, and New York’s TheActionRoom.com. My Google Profile+
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12 Responses to Willy Wonka’s Outstanding Oompas!

  1. Jim Rash says:

    Solid detective work on the early wonka candies.
    Still looking for them!
    Jim.

  2. JB says:

    Fantastic read. These were a little before my time but I’m shocked there isn’t anything similar out there today with the half peanut butter half chocolate approach (reeses pieces I would put at a 80/20 pb to choc ratio). Seems like a no brainer.

    You’ve got to put together a book. I’d buy it in a second.

  3. Brandon says:

    Spectacular post! I think it’s those 1975-1976 wrappers that I remember the most.

    I do enjoy the current Peanut Butter M&Ms, and seems like those folks could get close to reproducing a candy similar to the original Oompas.

  4. lynn says:

    willy wonka LOL bring back these OOMPAS, remember them as a kid and they were yummy

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  7. Kyle says:

    BRING BACK THE OOMPA. I loved those things. The ones in the purple package.

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  9. Liz says:

    WOW. Thanks so much for posting. For the last several years I thought maybe I was imagining my favorite childhood candy! I’ve done internet searches & never found info on the chocolate/peanut butter Oopmas in the past but only found info on the chewy/fruity things. (I thought they were called oompa loompas.) YUM!!! LOVE them!

  10. Stacie says:

    I would welcome a return of the original peanut butter Oompa Loompas!! They were my favorite and have great memories of them. What a great story by Jason Liebig, thank you for taking the time to write about the original Oompas!

  11. Jim says:

    I can’t believe Nestle can’t come up with a business model to manufacture this outstanding candy so that it will become available again. Oompas was wayyy better than M&M’s, of any flavor, and I still remember them to this day, 32 years later. Super Skrunch was good too but Oompas was my favorite. Oompas has great flavor! Some of the execs running these companies couldn’t run a hot dog stand on a street corner in Queens!

    • Jason Liebig says:

      Jim,

      Ha ha… well, I’m definitely with you on thinking these should be brought back. I’m not holding my breath, but boy it would be cool if they ever did!

      -Jason

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