If you happened to be in a Walmart on Black Friday last year (2017), you may have come across a display of a new, egg-shaped confection called Kinder Joy, consisting of two plastic halves – one containing two chocolate-sprinkled wafer balls floating in milk and cocoa creams, and in the other, a ready-to-assemble toy. Since the first of the year, such displays have sprung up in stores – from supermarkets to drug stores to general retailers – across the United States. Kinder Joy’s success seems to have come out of nowhere, but the product actually has a somewhat complicated history.
Italian confectioner Ferrero (Nutella) first marketed Kinder Surprise (Sorpresa in Italian) in 1974. Based upon an Italian Easter tradition, a Kinder Surprise consists of a hollow chocolate egg surrounding a large, yellow, plastic “yolk” containing a small figurine or toy (usually one that needs to be assembled). It is estimated that one to three billion of the eggs have been sold each year in over 170 countries around the globe – except in the U.S..
Why? Apparently, Kinder Surprise eggs run afoul of a 1938 Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic act forbidding the embedment of non-nutritive objects in confectionery products. Which is why Kinder Surprise eggs are still banned in the United States. The Kinder Joy version that has finally made an appearance here was developed in 2001 to serve those countries where the climate too often caused the chocolate in the regular version to melt, so the toy was segregated from the candy and, thus, not embedded. (Perhaps our government should also ban the figurine-embedded King cakes sold by bakeries for Epiphany and Mardi Gras?)
Somewhat hilariously, the situation has resulted in a black market for Kinder Surprise eggs where they can sometimes be found in European markets and deli stores here in the States. Even parents who have been returning from Canada (where they are legal) with eggs for their own children, have been stopped at the border and have had the eggs confiscated and been threatened with fines of up to $250 and more.
Of course, if it was only about the peculiarities of government action, we wouldn’t be discussing the topic here; for collectors, after all, it’s all about the toys.
From the beginning, Ferrero has been including up to 100+ different toys each year, and while there appears to be no definitive list, estimates place the current total at up to 12,000+. Many of the toys can be grouped according to pop culture. For instance, there are numerous Disney (Frozen, The Jungle Book, The Little Mermaid, etc.) and Marvel (Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, etc.) tie-ins. The Minions, Barbie, Smurfs, and The Lord of the Rings are all represented along with numerous themed examples, such as soldiers, cars, puzzles, the American West, and many more.
While an online auction site like eBay or Catawiki (see below) can help introduce you to a plethora of Kinder toys, they are not definitive. The only extensive resource currently available appears to be a German-language catalogue, O-Ei-A (see below).
Here in the States, the secondary markets for Kinder toys are just getting started, but in Europe, where they have long been popular, prices can easily exceed 40 Euros ($50) for some of the older and rarer specimens.
The U.S., unfortunately, has a lot of catching up to do.
Would you like to find out more about this popular collectible? Check out the resources listed below, and
O-Ei-A 2018 – Das Original – Der Preisführer für alles aus dem Überraschungsei! (Amazon)
Collecting figurines and statuettes – Kinder Surprise (Online catalogue at Catawiki.com) – European online auction site provides info, pics, list of collectors, more. Helpful research aid.
How many different fillings/toys have there been in the history of Kinder surprise eggs? (Quora) – Check out the cute video.
Kinder Egg is Coming to U.S. in 2018 (Fortune) – Nice overview of the company and its products.
Surprise! Border officials seize Canadian woman’s Kinder Egg (TheStar.com) – Hilarious!
Why are Kinder Surprise Eggs Illegal in the United States (TodayIFoundOut.com) – Great piece provides detailed background on FDA’s intervention.