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.
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:
And here’s an image of an early Oompas display box:
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:
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.
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:
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:
The following year in 1978, Oompas saw the focus put on an adjustment to their flavors, when they became Peanut Butterier.
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!”:
In 1980, Oompas got quite a flavorful addition to the brand, when a short-lived flavor spinoff was released with Strawberry Oompas:
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:
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:
Later, in the mid-2000′s and in the USA this time, Wonka Oompas got another try with a fruit-flavored treat:
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:
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.
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!