ISM: 02.–05.02.2025 #ISMCOLOGNE

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PEZ: A Success Story from Peppermint Candy to Innovative Collectibles

They are small, come in a wide range of flavours and can be stored in a characteristic dispenser that fits inside the smallest pocket. What are we talking about? PEZ, what else? - the cult products for both young and old that took Austria by storm just under 100 years ago and later the whole world.

PEZ candy wall decoration

Today, the variety of products extends far beyond the popular sweets and dispensers: There are campaign products for the fans of Mickey Mouse, Darth Vader, Hello Kitty, Spider-Man, Pokémon and co., dextrose, sherbet, wedding and other gift items and an app for child-appropriate and diversified games. PEZ products unite generations, epitomise enjoyment, the passion for collecting and creative game fun.

PEZ stands for innovation. At the beginning of the year they made it onto the winners' podium of the ISM New Product Showcase with their latest product - PEZ MyHead. PEZ MyHead is a personal PEZ dispenser that one can create for oneself or as a gift with the aid of a photo and a 3D printing process.

We spoke with Mr Bangelmeier, Managing Director of PEZ International and learnt a lot of exciting facts about the cult brand and its history and also discussed their experiences at ISM.

ISM: Mr Bangelmeier, PEZ is celebrating its 100th anniversary soon - tell us a little about the early days of today's cult brand?

PEZ: PEZ was invented by Eduard Haas in Linz, Austria in 1927. The first product was a peppermint sweet designed to freshen up the breath of smokers. That is why the name PEZ is derived from the German word for peppermint, "Pfefferminz". Since smokers also needed somewhere to store the sweets when en route, a dispenser that resembled a cigarette lighter was developed and patented, which the sweets could be hygienically stored inside.

ISM: Initially the product targeted smokers. How did you manage to make PEZ an absolute hit with children as well?

PEZ: To make PEZ also accessible to children, the product was further developed. Eduard Haas had the vision of placing the heads of popular comic figures like Mickey Mouse on top of the dispensers and approached Walt Disney at the end of the 1950s - which was the start of the licensing business. Hence, PEZ conquered the USA and at the beginning of the 1970s also Asia.

We are meanwhile represented in around 80 countries. Special editions followed such as for instance John F. Kennedy, Elvis, Kiss, Kate and William.

The founder carried out marketing before the term even existed, sponsored beauty contests, mountain climbing expeditions, cinema premieres and Udo Jürgens in the Eurovision Song Contest. PEZ was perceived as a high-quality product and that is still the case today.

It is an accolade for every brand to be described as a "cult brand" by the consumers. Collectors meet up, people have PEZ tattooed on their bodies, we play a part in TV series and films like ET, the Ant-Man and the Wasp and many more.

PEZ Micky Mouse

ISM: How do you succeed in further developing the brand again and again?

PEZ: We have brought PEZ into the digital world and developed an interactive app with added value for children, which has been downloaded millions of times. All for free.

We at some point came up with the idea of becoming sustainably older and expanding the core target group (3-8 years). The PEZ MyHead dispenser was the next step for us. It is the ultimate gift. We invested in infrastructure and production processes and spent years further developing it. Our claim was that it works from the couch and that it is as simple as possible and we certainly lived up to our promise: Download the free app, take a photo or upload one, configure the dispenser - job done.

But we are still carrying out research and working on making the individual PEZ MyHead dispenser even better.

PEZ MyHead

ISM: How is the idea going down with the consumers and on the market?

PEZ: The PEZ MyHead is a special gift that thoroughly delights everyone it is bestowed upon. It brings back childhood memories straight away. We are initially launching the special unique item in Europe and will then carry it out into the rest of the world. We know that Asia and America are very open to ideas like this. So, it is going to be exciting!

ISM: What were your experiences at ISM and with the ISM New Product Showcase?

PEZ: We visit ISM every year. It is the platform we meet our customers at, whom we can't otherwise meet up with personally throughout the year, because for example they come from countries we don't regularly travel to.

As long-standing exhibitors we knew about the Award and already won one a few years ago with PEZ Soft (fruit gums). So we applied this year: If innovation is what one is looking for, PEZ MyHead is the answer. We were able to present ourselves to the global public, surprise distribution partners and show how innovative we are. The information went through the whole trade and attracted huge attention to us as a brand. Through our presence at ISM we received plenty of opportunities for secondary placements, i.e. for prize draws.

The trade fair was the ideal location for presenting it to a selected public and the world beyond the trade audience will soon be informed in the scope of a press information and then our marketing campaigns will successively be launched.

New Product Showcase area in the hall

ISM: What are your highlights at ISM?

PEZ: A trade fair entails long planning, plenty of preparation and stress. When one is finally at the trade fair and one receives feedback from one's customers and the visitors confirm one's ideas, one returns home with a good feeling. That is my highlight and lets all the efforts and challenges in the run up to the fair be forgotten.

PEZ stand at ISM 2024

ISM: What awaits us next year at ISM?

PEZ: After the trade fair is before the trade fair - we already have a few things planned and will present the entire PEZ product range next year. There will be many exciting things to discover, from cinema, to TV, to classics: Everyone will be able to find his favourite character in the form of PEZ dispensers.