As the classic brand hits a milestone birthday, we find out more about the licensing programme surrounding it.

Rocket Licensing on the 45th anniversary of The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Firstly, how did the brand perform in 2013?

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is going from strength to strength. We have several new licensees, new products from existing licensees and an expanding footprint at retail. Year-on-year retail sales across the board grew by about 20 per cent in 2013. So far it looks as if this growth will be exceeded in 2014.

How many licensees does it have to date, and in which categories?

We have just over 30 licensees covering the UK and Eire, producing beautiful product ranges including: toys, jigsaws, developmental toys, nightwear, infant product, tableware, creative play, toiletries, paper products, dress up, bedding, décor, magazine publishing and gardening products.

What are some of the best performing products?

Toys and developmental toys are at the core of the brand. Apparel for both toddlers and infants is hugely popular. The Partyware range from Talking Tables has helped many young children celebrate important birthdays and the ceramic range from Portmeirion has proved to be the perfect gift for young children and babies. There are lovely new ranges of creative play and melamine product launching at retail this year from Wild & Wolf and a range of toiletries from Sapona, I am sure these will both be best sellers.

Are you looking to sign more licensees this year – if so which categories are you targeting?

It’s always fun to talk to new partners about product ideas. It’s really important to find partners who are going to create beautiful product that reflect the brand’s values and appeal, and enhance the Very Hungry Caterpillar’s position as the nation’s favourite children’s character. We are really keen to build the brand’s presence in and around healthy eating and keen to talk to both retailers and manufacturing partners about how we can unlock the brand potential in this area.

Do you have any special marketing initiatives or promotional activity planned for 2014?

The activity we are most excited about for 2014 is The Giant Wiggle, which is happening in the 45th birthday week. It’s a sponsored conga line in support of the charity Action for Children, which is celebrating its 145th anniversary this year. We have about 700 nurseries taking part across the UK — that’s around 30,000 children! It’s a great, fun idea and one that will be a huge success. It is a privilege to be working with a fabulous organisation like Action for Children on a project that involves The Very Hungry Caterpillar interacting directly with children, parents and carers. The Giant Wiggle is going to be with us for a while. The plan is to build the event every year to a peak of participation for the 50th anniversary of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and the 150th anniversary of Action for Children.

What has the reaction from retail been like to the brand?

It’s been extremely positive — and that’s ongoing. The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a classic with a proven track record of excellent sales across a broad range of product. The brand has buy-in from a broad spectrum of retail partners, from grocery to independent book and toy retailers and from discount stationers to garden centres. We are working hard with retailers to maximise sales and develop a point of difference and have created several bespoke retail promotions for 2014 both on individual ranges and across categories.

What would you most like to achieve with the brand by the end of 2014?

Our aim is to continue to grow the brand, building the range of licensed product and developing retail distribution. The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a classic brand but it requires us to be innovative, working closely with key partners and retailers to develop its full potential.

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