Sponsored feature

Champions of Design: Pez

The Austrian sweet brand has become better known around the world for its collectable dispenser designs.

Pez began life as a simple peppermint-flavoured sweet, but the invention of the Pez dispenser turned it into a favourite childhood toy - and a savvy marketing tool.

The Pez sweet, created by Austrian businessman Eduard Haas in 1927, preceded its familiar toy dispensers by almost 30 years; it was originally sold as a breath mint in tins. Haas took the name from the letters in pfefferminze, the German word for peppermint and its key ingredient.

He set up Haas Food Manufacturing Corporation in his hometown of Vienna, where it is still based. As an anti-smoking advocate, Haas began marketing the pressed, block-shaped sweets as an aid for quitting the habit. With the help of Oscar Uxa, a lighter-shaped dispenser was created, along with the mechanism that is still used in Pez dispensers today.

Expanding into the US market, the company found success elusive. Rethinking its approach, the US division, led by executive Curtis Allina, came up with the idea of fruit-flavoured Pez and toy dispensers that would appeal to a wider children's market.

Introduced in 1955, the first toy dispensers featured Santa Claus and a robot character. Slightly different from today's design, the dispenser character was fully formed from head to toe. These were the only fully formed designs; successive toys have featured the tilting head atop a plain, oblong body.

In 1958 Popeye became the first of many popular cartoon characters licensed to appear on the toy. In the 60s, Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Pinocchio, Pluto and US cartoon favourites such as Bullwinkle, the moose from Rocky and Bullwinkle, adorned the toy. From superheroes and presidents to Hello Kitty and Muppets star Kermit the Frog, more than 1500 different dispenser designs have been created.

The Star Wars Pez character collection, released in the late-90s, is the most successful to date, and a Star Wars collector set released in 2005 was the first limited-edition set to be produced by the company. The best-selling single Pez character to date is the perennial classic Santa Claus figure.

Further limited-edition sets have since been created, including characters from The Wizard of Oz, Snow White, The Lord of the Rings and even an Elvis collection. Pez's popularity continues, with each new generation of children and avid adult fans around the world keen to collect the characters.

Refining the toy over the years with the development of better materials and production methods, small feet were added to allow the dispensers to stand upright; variations have included a collection of interchangeable rubber heads and a plush toy dispenser.

Every year 55m dispensers and 4.6bn sweets are manufactured by Pez and sold in 80 countries worldwide.


James Joice client director, JKR

By James Joice, client director, JKR

It's ironic that Pez was created to help adults stop smoking, because the product's development over subsequent years provides a master class in how to appeal to children.

As the first brand to offer a sweet that doubles as a toy, it couldn't really go too far wrong, especially when the sweets are almost incidental. With Pez, the packaging is the product.

As a child, it's the character's head at the top of the dispenser, whether that be Mickey Mouse or Hello Kitty, that has you tugging on your parent's sleeve. To the parent, it's an almost equally easy sell - an inexpensive way to give their child a little bit of whatever fad is ruling the playground. It also provides them with some easy entertainment, because tipping back the head is a seriously fun way to serve up a sweet.

The dispensing mechanism is actually a clever, ergonomic design disguised as a bit of kitsch, and it's the thing that gives Pez real personality.

It's also the main reason the stick normally gets emptied in next to no time. The other reason is the reload; filling up the chamber with more sweets makes you feel pretty sophisticated as a child, so it's another good excuse to keep eating.

As well as the circular satisfaction in consuming Pez, the countless editions mean they are also perfect for collecting. So, while the brand might have started out to cure one addiction, it has surely replaced it with another.


1927: Eduard Haas made the first Pez mints. They became popular among friends and family.

1948: Oscar Uxa designed the original Pez dispenser.

1952: A US subsidiary, based in New York City was set up to break the US market. A patent for its toy dispensers was obtained.

1991: The first Pez collectors' convention was held in the US.

1993: Chrisitie's in New York held its first auction of pop-culture lots, including Pez products.

1993: Pez made the front cover of Forbes magazine.

2011: Pez opened a visitors' centre at its US headquarters in Connecticut.

2011: A set of 'William and Kate' Pez dispensers was created to celebrate the royal wedding.

View more Champions of Design


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now


Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers
Ex-M&S marketing chief Steven Sharp consulting at WPP
Wolff Olins reveals new CEO after Apple poaches Karl Heiselman
Glasgow offers £30,000 prize to best digital idea for 2014 Commonwealth Games
Google's revenues surge but shares drop as it grapples with transition to mobile
Facebook beats Twitter to most 'marketing friendly' social media site crown, says DMA
Fableists believe children like Finn should be outdoors enjoying life
Homebase, Baileys and Camelot join the line-up at Media360
MasterCard renews Rugby World Cup sponsorship to push cashless message
Lynx unleashes £9m 'Peace invasion' campaign
Social Brands 100 Youth: Pizza Hut most social youth brand in UK
Cheryl Cole is wild and arresting in new L'Oreal work
Morrisons told not to show alcohol ads during YouTube nursery rhymes
O2 head of brand Shadi Halliwell departs after 23 years at company in restructure
Tesco hit by further sales decline as it turns to digital Clubcard and social network
Branding guru Wally Olins dies aged 83
Duracell short film captures epic Transatlantic voyage
Ash runs Tinder experiment to show smokers are less desirable to opposite sex
British Airways teams up with Gerry Cottle Jnr for summer of rooftop film screenings
Arklu says 'girls can be superheroes too' with doll design competition
Coke enters squash market with Oasis Mighty Drops
Virgin Galactic signs up Land Rover as space flight sponsor
Motorola marketer Andrew Morley departs as Google gears up for sale to Lenovo
US Airways apologises after tweeting obscene image at a customer
Mumsnet admits users' emails and passwords accessed via Heartbleed bug