The Willy Wonka Candy Company, also known as the Wonka Candy Company, or Wonka, is a candy confectionery owned by Nestlé, formerly owned by Sunmark until 1988. The company is inspired by the novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and launched in 1971 thus coinciding with the release of the film, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
The Willy Wonka Candy Company was first imagined in the pages of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The Willy Wonka Candy Company came to be as the result of film director Mel Stuart's 10-year-old daughter Madeline. Madeline read the novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and asked her father to make it into a film, obliging him to get "Uncle Dave" (producer David L. Wolper) to produce it. Stuart showed the book to Wolper, who was engaged in talks with the Quaker Oats Company. Wolper convinced the Quaker Oats Company into signing the deal for up to $3 million to finance the film version in exchange for the candy bar tie-in. Quaker, who had no previous experience in the film industry, bought the rights to the book and financed the picture for the purpose of promoting their new Wonka Bar. The name of Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory however was renamed to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory for promotion purposes.
The new brand was produced in Illinois, at the Chicago-based Breaker Confections (which was then owned by Sunmark Co., a subsidiary of Quaker). The original Wonka Bars never saw store shelves due to factory production problems prior to the film's release. Regardless, later Wonka product releases were highly successful. Breaker Confections changed its name into Willy Wonka Brands in 1980 in an attempt at developing its Wonka brand image. In 1988 Willy Wonka Brands was sold, along with parent company Sunmark, by Quaker to Nestlé, who in 1993 renamed Willy Wonka Brands to Willy Wonka Candy Company. Today, the company produces over 100 different varieties of candy.
A number of the Willy Wonka-branded products originated from Roald Dahl's book and later film adaptations, while others were originally created or acquired for the brand. Some of the products included under the brand include Everlasting Gobstoppers, Sweettarts, Laffy Taffy, Nerds, Kazoozles, Shockers, Bottle Caps, Gummies, Fun Dip, Spree, Runts, Pixy Stix, MixUps and their world-famous Wonka Bars.
The Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory is located today at 1445 West Norwood Avenue in Itasca, Illinois.