Don’t let the name fool you—Grossery Gang is all about keeping things fresh. The collectibles line launched last summer by Australia’s Moose Toys became an instant hit with its 150 characters modeled after common convenience store snacks. (Think Putrid Pizza and Fungus Fries.) Now, the toymaker is expanding the brand with action figures, vehicles and playsets.
“We saw an opportunity to take the success of what we had done with our Shopkins brand and apply a different filter,” says Belinda Gruebner, EVP of global marketing at Moose Toys. “The storyline of Grossery Gang has evolved, and we saw an opportunity to build out a world that could integrate the age-old play pattern of good vs. evil. It keeps things current, and it’s helped to really build the Grossery Gang universe.”
The upcoming action figures and vehicles particularly lend themselves to play patterns that pit the Grossery Gang against the evil Clean Team—a group of baddies intent on sanitizing the brand’s delightfully disgusting heroes. The characters are tied to the third series of the collectible figures—aptly named Putrid Power—which launched exclusively at Toys “R” Us locations in the US this month before heading to key retailers (including Walmart, Target and Amazon) on August 1. The first wave of Grossery Gang action figures also hit retail in the US, the UK, Canada and Australia in July.
While the brand does skew toward boys, Gruebner says girls are just as capable of getting dirty. “If you plan and create something specifically for one gender, you can start to alienate the other one quite quickly,” she says. “We’ve got some tremendous fans of the Shopkins brand among boy collectors as well.” Of course, Shopkins has seen success across the board, growing to include hundreds of collectible characters, a line of Shoppies Dolls, an animated webisode series on YouTube, and a recently announced live stage show entitled Shopkins Live!, which will kick off in the US in September.
“Children are immersing themselves more and more across multiple product categories, and when they’re really into a brand, they like to live, breathe, eat and sleep in it,” Gruebner says. “But we’re also really cautious about how we roll those programs out because it has to be done in a sustainable way.” In that vein, future licensing for Grossery Gang will be approached with caution to ensure brand growth is carefully managed, and according to Gruebner, the company is wary of abandoning its roots in collectibles.
That continued focus is likely to pay off. Market research firm The NPD Group reports that sales for the US collectibles category grew by 33% in 2016 to US$1.8 billion. Sales for blind packs, in particular, swelled by 60% in 2016 and have grown six-fold since 2013. Ultimately, sales of collectibles products represented 9% of total US toy industry dollars last year. “You can’t lose sight of what it is that kids buy into,” Gruebner says. “The core collections, which are the Grossery Gang collectible figures themselves, are the primary focus.”