NEW DELHI: After Ben 10 stationery, Spiderman T-shirts, Barbie school bags and Doraemon watches, soon it could be the turn of Chhota Bheem laddoos to woo children from shop shelves.

Production house Green Gold Animation, creator of Chhota Bheem-India’s first television animation serial to have broken the monopoly of foreign toons such as Ben 10 and Doraemon-is in talks with a couple of restaurant chains to license laddoos that Chhota Bheem eats by the dozens.

“We’re in talks with a couple of restaurant chains for the same,” Rajiv Chilaka, MD of the Hyderabad-based Green Gold Animation, told ET. “Details are not finalised yet, so I can’t talk about the names of food chains.”

This will be the first time when a food product in India is licensed with a local toon character, said Chilaka, who is also the creator, director and producer of Chhota Bheem. Globally, food and beverage licensing is an $8-billion (approx Rs 44,000 crore) industry, according to a food and beverages report by The Licensing Letter newsletter of US-based EPM Communications.

But such deals are not common in India. Earlier this year, the country’s largest retailer Future group partnered with Disney to launch cookies. And, last summer, private dairy firm Parag Milk Foods had tied up with cartoon Warner Bros’ toons Tom & Jerry for a range of cheese products featuring the popular toons.

Top chocolate maker Cadbury too had come out with a special Cadbury Dairy Milk Wowie chocolate bar featuring Disney characters such as Mickey and Minnie mice some four years ago. But the firm withdrew the product after signing the India Pledge, which is a commitment not to advertise products that do not meet specific nutrition criteria to children under 12 years.

Chhota Bheem, who belongs to an imaginary village called Dholakpur, already features in T-shirts and accessories. Green Gold Animation operates 20 exclusive stores to sell Chhota Bheem merchandise including clothing, umbrellas and home furnishings in cities like Hyderabad, Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata.

The popular toon character has also been associated with brands such as Hindustan Unilever’s Knorr Soupy noodles and Pepsodent toothpaste, Mrs Bector cookies and Usha fans for special promotions and contests.

Rahul Gupta of Creative Children Media, an outfit involved with promotions and marketing aimed at kids, said brand licensing is a $150-200 million (about Rs 800-1,100 crore) industry in India and on a high growth curve.

There’s a constant parallel existence on media and off media for toon characters – there’s merchandise, entertainment destinations, meet and greet opportunities, movies, and more,” said Gupta.

He said the industry is growing in double digits, adding that marketers are increasingly leveraging opportunities that didn’t exist earlier in this space. Globally, the industry is estimated at $80-100 billion.

The animation series, launched four years back on Turner International-promoted Pogo channel, has been a consistent top performer among kids channels over the last four years, Chilaka said, quoting data by media measurement and tracking agency TAM.

The show is aired for anywhere between 4-6 hours daily on Pogo.

Monica Tata, GM, entertainment networks, South Asia, at Turner International India, said, “Chhota Bheem is currently the top show in the kids’ entertainment genre, consistently getting over 1 TVR on an average.”

The rating could not be confirmed from TAM as the agency last week decided to stop releasing programme-specific data after a policy decision.

Head of a leading Delhi-based media-buying firm said Chhota Bheem and Doraemon have been neck and neck, but, on an average, Bheem has been getting higher ratings.

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