With the arrival of June comes the beginning of National Candy Month, a 30-day ode to the sweet, tart, and sometimes salty corner store concoctions that have been the frequent source of failed diets everywhere. There are two ways to celebrate: by overindulging in your favorite candies of today and/or by remembering the (for) now-discontinued treats of your past.
1. GARBAGE CAN-DY
This sugar-coated ode to dumpster diving featured a tiny plastic garbage can filled with Pez-like candy pellets in the shape of items you might actually find in a garbage can (a dead fish, an old shoe, a dog bone, a discarded soda bottle). Fortunately, this novelty treat tasted much better. Multitasking types loved the fact that, once the candy was consumed, the toy trash can could be used for storing stuff like stickers, erasers and/or Garbage Pail Kids cards (perhaps not coincidentally, both Garbage Can-dy and Garbage Pail Kids were created by Art Spiegelman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Maus, who worked in the product development department of The Topps Company at the time).
2. BAR NONE
Introduced in 1986, Bar None was Hershey’s original foray into the gourmet chocolate bar market before a gourmet chocolate bar market actually existed. Combining the best ingredients of the most popular bars of the time, its original incarnation featured a chocolate-covered cocoa wafer filled with (yet more) chocolate and peanuts in an attempt—as the slogan went—to “tame the chocolate beasty.” Whatever that means. In 1992, Hershey tinkered with the flavor mash-up a bit, adding an extra wafer and some caramel into the mix. The reformulation didn’t help slagging sales; the candy was discontinued in 1997, though it still maintains a fan base of sweet-toothed admirers hoping for its comeback.
Bonkers—Nabisco’s chewable fruit candy with a gum-like outer shell and fruity inside—are proof of the power of advertising. Even if you don’t remember the artificial fruit flavor of the candy itself, it’s hard to forget the product’s popular commercial campaign, in which a group of strait-laced characters would be “bonked” into silliness by a giant piece of fruit from above. But when the commercial campaign slowed down, so did the candy’s sales, ultimately leading to a cease in production altogether. Yet there’s potentially good news on the horizon for fans of this treat as well, as Leaf Brands has struck again! In 2012, the company acquired Bonkers’ manufacturing rights and plans to have Bonkers back on the market by the end of 2014.
4. CHICKEN DINNER BAR
First things first: there is not a piece of poultry to be found in The Chicken Dinner Bar. Introduced during the Depression era, the chocolate-covered nut roll’s name was a reference to Herbert Hoover’s prosperity-minded presidential campaign promise of “a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.” Despite the candy’s unfortunate name (even the commercials made reference to a clucking chicken and the candy was delivered to stores in a chicken-shaped truck), the candy had some serious legs, remaining on shelves for nearly 40 years. Production ceased only when its original manufacturer, the Sperry Candy Company, was acquired by Pearson’s in 1962.
5. THE VEGETABLE SANDWICH BAR
Another poorly-named relic from the 1920s, re-discovered in Steve Almond’s book Candyfreak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America, is The Vegetable Sandwich Bar. Unfortunately, unlike the sugary Chicken Dinner Bar, this snack was exactly what it sounded like: Dubbed a “health” bar, the wannabe candy actually contained cabbage, celery, peppers and tomatoes and was marketed for its ability to aid in digestion and “not constipate.” Mmmm … sounds delicious.
Like any food category, candy goes through phases. In the 1980s, this meant a barrage of beverage-flavored chewing gums, including the Gatorade-inspired Gatorgum which, like its beverage predecessor, promised to quench one’s thirst. While it, too, still maintains a legion of fans, the chewing gum’s super-tart flavor—which could actually hurt one’s mouth on occasion—probably didn’t help its short-lived time on grocery store shelves. Its beverage-themed competitors—including Dr. Pepper Gum, 7-Up Gum and A&W Root Beer Gum—didn’t fare much better.
7. NESTLE ALPINE WHITE
Even diehard white chocolate connoisseurs know that its super-sweet flavor is an acquired taste. And while Nestle did its best to promote the Alpine White bar as a sexy and sophisticated alternative to plain old milk chocolate—as evidenced by their video art-inspired commercial campaign, seen here—not enough customers were biting. A Facebook campaign to bring the bar back has so far only garnered 3,400 supporters.
8. PB MAX
Note to candy manufacturers: As long as Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (in all their many forms) are on the market, no new peanut-butter infused concoction will ever compete. But PB Max gets props for trying with something other than a direct Reese’s cup rip-off. Available in the early 1990s, PB Max was a peanut butter-topped chocolate cookie that experienced a fair amount of success upon its introduction. The strangest part of its disappearance, according to Joël Glenn Brenner’s book The Emperors Of Chocolate? That despite $50 million in sales, manufacturer Mars decided to pull it from the shelves because the company founders don’t like the taste of peanut butter.
9. PEANUT BUTTER BOPPERS
With Nature Valley as their manufacturer, Peanut Butter Boppers were marketed more like granola bars. But any log-like snack that consists of peanut butter, chocolate and graham cracker nuggets is a candy bar in our book. It didn’t help that the commercials touted the snack as a wild-and-crazy kind of treat. Unfortunately, little information exists on why Boppers—which were introduced in the mid-1980s and extinct by the end of the decade—went bye-bye.
10. TART ‘N’ TINY
What a difference a decade makes. In the 1980s, Tart ‘n’ Tinys—Wonka’s candy-coated, fruit-flavored pellets, which came in five flavors—were one of the company’s best-selling products. But by the 1990s, they were discontinued. Perhaps it had something to do with their textural similarity to Wonka’s SweeTarts, which are still available in their original roll plus in chewy, giant, miniature and gummy varieties. Eagle-eyed Web shoppers may still be able to find a box or two online; just know that any original box is going to be at least two decades old!
11. ASTRO POP
Considering their usefulness as both a sugary treat and a potentially lethal weapon in a pinch, what’s more surprising than the Astro Pop’s disappearance from the market in 2004 is that they remained on shelves for more than four decades. Created by two actual rocket scientists, the sucker’s shape was modeled after a three-stage rocket and purported to be the “longest lasting lollipop on earth.” The Astro Pop was acquired by Spangler Candy (the makers of Dum Dums and circus peanuts) in 1987, only to be discontinued 17 years later when the pop no longer seemed to mesh with the company’s larger corporate strategy. But there’s a happy ending for fans of this multi-colored treat, as its manufacturing rights were acquired by Leaf Brand—a candy company intent on resurrecting retro treats—which is once again making the iconic sucker available to the public and maintains a popular Facebook page in its honor.