Industry News


26 Aug - 2019

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Major brand collaboration at RHS gardens and flower shows attracts big crowds

The summer holiday is in full swing, and so is the collaboration between Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar and the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), the world’s leading gardening charity.

Inspired by the brand’s 50th anniversary, for which events and celebrations have been taking place all year, The Very Hungry Caterpillar-related events have been a feature of four RHS flower shows this year and are currently running in four RHS gardens for the rest of the summer.

Family sculpture trails, storytelling and creative workshops, themed picnics, craft activities, face painting, butterfly workshops, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar-themed competitions and events supporting the schools educational programme have all been part of the summer fun, as well as fruit and vegetable garden areas, butterfly-friendly planting areas and appearances from costume character.

At all four flower shows (RHS Cardiff in April, RHS Chatsworth in June, and RHS Hampton Court Palace and RHS Tatton Park in July) family trail leaflets directed visitors to signage points around the garden and impactful metre-high 3D trail fruit sculptures – perfect for kids to peek and crawl through! A huge willow sculpture was also a stand-out feature at the shows.

Featured on the BBC’s RHS Flower show Tatton Park programme, the activity at the Cheshire-based show also included a caterpillar-themed show garden with caterpillar-shaped bushes, butterfly-friendly flowers, a butterfly feeding station and bug hotels – a perfect environment in which wildlife could thrive. Alongside the garden was a The Very Hungry Caterpillar activity marquee, surrounded by peep-through standees and containing a central, themed sensory tree trunk.

At all four shows visitors could enjoy the show shops which featured impressive displays of The Very Hungry Caterpillar merchandise including books from Penguin and toys from Rainbow Designs as well as co-branded gardening-related product from Robert Frederick and co-branded backpacks and lunchbags from William Lamb.

The four visitor gardens – RHS Wisley (Surrey), RHS Harlow Carr (Yorkshire), RHS Hyde Hall (Essex) and RHS Rosemoor (Devon) are also featuring family trails, along with caterpillar-themed craft exhibitions and workshops. The Very Hungry Caterpillar costume character has been making appearances at several gardens, much to the delight of children, and the picnics have been encouraging children to dress as their favourite creepy crawly or food and enjoy activities such as bug-hunting, face-painting and juice-tasting with licensee Cawston Press. A wonderful caterpillar and butterfly mural is also on display to visitors at RHS Wisley. In addition to the gardens themselves, visitors can again find The Very Hungry Caterpillar in the RHS shops, where dedicated retail spaces are displaying a range of licensed product. 

Big final audience figures are expected for the collaboration. The four RHS visitor gardens annually attract over two million visitors a year, more than 400,000 of these being over the summer. On top of this, the show gardens together attract over 500,000 visitors annually.

With BLE on the horizon, this, the biggest-ever brand collaboration for the RHS and one of the highlights of The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s fiftieth anniversary year, underlines the continuing strength of the property in the UK market. The collaboration has been supported by extensive print, online and social media marketing from the RHS.

Many other exciting marketing, promotional and celebratory activities are under way or planned for the classic character’s birthday year. A busy programme of competitions, readings, retail events, new licences, online and magazine promotions and media support continue to extend public awareness of the brand throughout 2019. So too does The Very Hungry Caterpillar live show, which embarked on a new tour starting in May 2019, and the biggest-and-best-ever Giant Wiggle campaign – for the charity Action for Children – which, now in its 5th year, took place this spring. 

With worldwide book sales of The Very Hungry Caterpillar well in excess of 50 million, this is one of the most popular children’s characters in publishing – or any other medium – renewing and growing his audience with every new generation. In the UK, the world’s favourite caterpillar has already inspired lines of developmental toys, plush, games, bedding, apparel, puzzles, craft and activity sets, greeting cards and much more. Products at retail for this anniversary year, from new and established licensees, include toiletries, jewellery, backpacks, personalised gifts, butterfly and insect sets, playnests, infant toys, babywear, dress-up, gardening products and social stationery.

Meanwhile, the publisher Puffin is publishing no fewer than six new books in this anniversary year, including a gold 50th anniversary edition, supported by a major PR and marketing campaign.

The licensing campaign for The World of Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar is managed in the UK by independent licensing company Rocket Licensing through the worldwide agent, The Joester Loria Group. The Very Hungry Caterpillar is the centrepiece of the successful global licensing campaign around The World of Eric Carle brand, which brings together the much-loved, multi-million-selling works of author and artist Eric Carle.

Melissa Satterly, Brand Manager at Rocket Licensing, says: “It has been wonderful to see how these amazing activities have engaged and excited families and children across the UK this summer, highlighting one of the most successful children’s properties in the world as he celebrates his 50th birthday. With the values of nature and playful learning at its core, The Very Hungry Caterpillar is uniquely suited to a collaboration with the RHS and we’re thrilled that this partnership with the world’s leading gardening charity has been such a big success.”

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