Thursday, March 5, 2009

Just a Quick Query...

I am going to Australia in a week and I would love to try some of the local candies there. I know I have some well-travelled readers out there, so do you have any suggestions for candies that are only available in Oz? 

The Rainbow - Let's Talk

Ah Skittles! Those brightly colored, fruit flavored little gems that fill your mouth with their sugary goodness! They have been a favorite of mine since childhood. But there is another side to Skittles, a darker side. Yes, while not made of nougat themselves, they are a part of The Nougat Empire. 

Don't get me wrong, I love Mars products, they're delicious across the board. The Milky Way... wait, in England it's a Mars Bar... but it's different there, and there's a Mars Bar in the US... but now the Mars Bar is called Snickers Almond... but there's still a Mars Bar... and a Snickers... see what I mean? A Dark Side. While they make delicious sweets, they have a history of confusing their customers. And now the Nougat Empire seems to be morphing into a Nougat Dictatorship by commandeering the Internet and its users, making the unsuspecting members of the Social Media Commune their accomplices in their online media takeover. 

Overall, the Commune has been supportive. Skittles has been lauded for embracing Social Media and using it in a bold new way that other corporations would never dare to. Well, I guess if the members of the Commune don't mind the surprise takeover, who am I to complain? So now that I have spent three paragraphs railing on about the sneak attack, I will move on to the more positive aspects of this New World Nougat Order.

First, I go to the Skittles Homepage. I am a little confused to find myself at the Skittles Wikipedia entry, but that's OK. Because the truth is, it's pretty interesting. I'm learning about the history of Skittles. I'm learning about the different flavors. I discover that there are mint flavored Skittles - OK, that doesn't sound very yummy. All in all, it's interesting, albeit a little bland. And the designer in me would really like to see some stronger branding... but wait, I'm supposed to be talking about the good stuff now.

So I go to the distracting, I mean fruit-colored, widget and click on Chatter. Now I am directed to Twitter with a Skittles search. There's some good stuff here. People are talking about the campaign. Is it genius or idiotic? There's a lot of debate and links to blogs. It's fascinating, but I don't see a lot discussion from their teenage target market. Also, the Twitter log is sprinkled with references that are inappropriate to print here, and random people tweeting things like "skittles, skittles, skittles" just so they can get on the Skittles chatter page for 20 seconds or so. It's a little frustrating to sift through all the trash, but it's only fair that I admit my guilt - I went to my twitter page and wrote "reading about Skittles" and then quickly went to the Skittles chatter page to see if my post was there. It was. I felt the brief thrill of worldwide fame. Anyway...

Clicked on Media, then Pics. Guess where I went - that's right - Flickr! What did I learn there? A lot of people name their pets Skittles, and then post pictures of their adorable antics. I suspect that in 
the next few days, we will see more and more random pictures with Skittles in them, as folks tire of the fleeting fame of Twitter and make that extra effort for extended fame on Flickr. But wait! What's this? Holy cow, someone has posted a recipe and pictures for SKITTLES VODKA!!! I feel that I owe it to my readers (both of you) to try this out. What kind of CandyGirl would I be if I didn't? I promise to let you know of my results in a future post. 

So you get the idea - I click on Friends, I go to Facebook. I click on Movies, I go to YouTube. Basically the entire website is just links to outside sites with User Generated Content. I don't know what I think about all this. On the surface, I don't like it. The Social Media Commune is all about conversations between willing participants, where everyone has ownership. It just feels like they're trying to take over the happy commune. On the other hand, it really simplified my research process for this blog post, and anything that simplifies my research is a welcome addition to my commune. Whatever your feelings are about the new campaign, one thing is for sure - that is one delicious rainbow!

And since it's now so easy for me to find Skittles stuff, let's close with a video!

I'd also like to give a special shout out to my new friend Chris, who's taken some awesome pictures of the Skittles vodka. Visit his Flickr page and show him some love!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Pop Pop, Fizz Fizz!

I'd like to thank my friend, Katie, for reminding me of this wonderful candy from my childhood. She went to dinner at Joe's Crab Shack Saturday night, and had a Rockin Popin Pomegranate Margarita, which is a Pomagranate Margarita with a Pomagranate juice floater. The magic comes along when the drink is brought to the table and the server pours a packet of Pop Rocks on top! Oh the humanity! 

Ahhh, Pop Rocks! After the initial shock of such a concoction wore off, I began to think of all my childhood experiences with those bright little pebbles of exploding sugar - the first time I discovered them at Buford's Candy Shop, the first time I made my friend try them, and then later, when they were taken off the market. And why were they taken off the market, you may ask. Well, everyone knows that little Mikey from the Life cereal commercials ate Pop Rocks and drank a Coke and his stomach exploded! How could they keep something so dangerous in the hands of small children and expect them to follow rules like, "No Pop Rocks and Soda"? So they were gone forever. 

OK, who believes that one? That's right, it's just an elaborate rumor to replace a rather dull truth. Here's what really happened. Pop Rocks entered the candy scene, courtesy of General Foods, in 1975. They were a big hit, but as distribution increased, there was an increasing problem with freshness. Pop Rocks ended up in circulation past their expiration date, and would no longer pop - very disappointing. General Foods found themselves unable to manage quality control in such a large market, so they pulled them off the shelves in 1983. 

Immediately, rumors began to swirl about the dangers of mixing Pop Rocks and Coke. Poor Mikey and his innocent stomach! General Foods tried to squelch the rumor by, and you're going to 
love this, circulating a flier disputing the rumor. Seriously? A flyer? I suppose we have to cut General Foods some slack. In 1983 there was no email, no Information Superhighway, no bloggers spreading the light of truth to the public. But a flier? Really? But you have to admit the Exploding Stomach Rumor is much more impressive than a Quality Control Issue. But now, Pop Rocks are back and being distributed by Pop Rocks, Inc. San Diegans can find them at North Park Vaudeville & Candy Shoppe.

Another amazing phenomenon with Pop Rocks is how, despite being off the market for years, they have remained a part of our popular culture. From the Mikey rumors to the shout-outs in multiple television shows and Green Day's song, Pop Rocks and Coke. And let's not forget, the Rockin Poppin Pomegranate Margarita! 

Just in case you need some verification that Pop Rocks are perfectly safe, please watch this informational video clip from those crazy cats at MythBusters on the Discovery Channel. 

So enjoy those Pop Rocks, and have a Coke and a smile. Your stomach will not explode.

Friday, January 30, 2009

As American as 100 Grand

In the 1950's, $100,000 was a lot of money; so much that it was the Grand Prize for a popular game show called, The Big Surprise. Even in 1966, when the $100,000 Bar was introduced by Nestle, it was still a nice chunk of change. Unfortunately, these days it won't buy you much, especially for those of us in California. Yes, in California, $100,000 will buy you a decent a car and a down-payment on a modest home. But on to happier things - like candy! 

The $100,000 Bar hit the scene in 1966, and was inspired by the above-mentioned games show. Mysteriously, the name was changed in 1985 to the 100 Grand Bar. Why? Well, as is quickly becoming my habit, I decided to go directly to the source for information. I sent off a quick email to Nestle, and the folks there responded right away, saying,

Thank you for contacting NestlĂ©® 100 Grand® Bar.

The name for the 100 Grand® Bar came from a 1957 quiz show called The Big Surprise. On this program, the contestant chose a subject area and was then asked to answer ten questions, ranging in value from $100 to $100,000. This sparked the idea for a new Nestle product named the $100,000 Bar. It was first introduced in 1966.

Then in 1984, the bar was changed from a one–piece bar into a 2–piece bar. The name was changed in 1985 to "100 Grand bar" because it was a popular term in the 1980's.

We appreciate your interest and hope you will visit our website often for the latest information on our products and promotions.

Um, OK. Let's see, in 1985, I was a freshman in Point Loma High. I don't remember "100 Grand" being a popular term. I must have been too busy studying Emily Dickenson to keep up on the latest trends (yea, right). But I will trust the folks at Nestle, and believe that this was, in fact, a very popular term in the 80's.

But the real fun with the 100 Grand Bar is yet to come. Besides being delicious, it has been the subject of many a radio show prank. On the Opie & Anthony show at WAAF -FM in Boston, MA, the hosts offered "100 Grand" to the 107th caller. Unfortunately, the winner's response to this little practical joke is unfit to post here, but I have to admit, it's pretty darn funny. Well, funny because it happened to somebody else... 

Perhaps more than any other candy bar, the 100 Grand has implanted itself in our popular culture. Remember this little gem?

And here's something a little more contemporary for all you fans of "The Office" from the Episode, "Business School":

Yea, that one may be showing up again in another post. OK, just one more, to prove my point. This comes to us from a "Seinfeld" episode, "The Dealership". Granted, the 100 Grand Bar isn't the star here, but it's still darn funny!

Yes, the 100 Grand Bar not only gives us chocolately , caramely, crunchy goodness, it also gives us hours of entertainment! Hopefully it will continue to do so for many years to come. In fact, I'm running down to the store right now to get one. Maybe I can use it to buy a new car.

Credit where credit is due: The $100,000 Grand ad at the top of this post comes to us courtesy of Old Time Candy.

UPDATE: Oh! One more thing! I mentioned before that this is not a blog dedicated to tasting and rating candy, but if you would like to see a good review of the 100 Grand Bar, you can visit CandyAddict

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Where Have All the Mars Bars Gone?

Thanks to Lisa Byrnes of Clairemont, I now have the topic for my next CandyBlog! Lisa asks, "Can you tell me why Mars Bars disappeared... and can only be found in dark chocolate English style now?" 

After doing some research, I found several possible explanations. Some of my favorites include:
"George W Bush doesn't care about Mars Bars."
"God blessed us with the High 5 Bar and nothing else matters anymore."
"The English can't be trusted to determine what tastes good."

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the above quotes do not necessarily reflect the views of CandyGirl or any of her affiliates. I apologize if George W. Bush, English palates, or the makers of the High 5 Bar are hurt or offended by the above opinions.

While all of these theories are truly fascinating, none of them explain the strange and sudden disappearance of the "original" Mars bar in 2000. But first, a little history lesson on the Mars Candy Company, which I will refer to from here on out as "The Nougat Empire". Follow closely, deciphering Mars corporate history is a little like unravelling the Da Vinci Code.

The Mars Candy Company started in 1911 when "The King of Nougat", Frank C. Mars, began selling butter creme candies from his kitchen in Tacoma, Washington. One thing led to another, and by 1929, the Nougat Empire had moved to Chicago, where they make their nougat-filled confections to this day. In 1932, the King of Nougat gave his son, Forrest E. Mars, some seed money and the Milky Way recipe so that he could start his own candy company. The Prince of Nougat sailed off to England to find his fortune, and began selling the Mars Bar, which we in the States called a Milky Way. The Mars Bar was introduced in the United States in 1936 with a slightly different formula, since the English Mars Bar already existed in the United States as the Milky Way. The United States Mars Bar contained nougat and almonds topped with caramel and covered in chocolate as opposed to nougat, caramel and dark chocolate. And everyone was happy (if not a little confused) until 2000, when the Mars Bar mysteriously disappeared.

So I asked the folks over at Mars, what the heck happened? And this was what they had to say:

The MARS ALMOND BAR is no longer being marketed. Instead we have taken the MARS ALMOND BAR and enhanced the formula to create a better tasting chocolate and almond bar. The new bar is being remarketed as SNICKERS ALMOND BAR.
SNICKERS ALMOND BAR is now available in stores. We hope you will give it a try.
Have a great day!
Your Friends at Mars Snackfood US

While this doesn't really answer the question of why, it does prove that at least the Mars tradition of constantly changing a candy's name is alive and well! But all kidding aside, I decided to run over to the 7-11 across the street and give this new and enhanced formula a try. Let me start by saying that there are several blogs out there devoted to tasting and rating candy with a system so elegant and precise that it would put the best French sommelier to shame. This is not one of those blogs. But my humble opinion of this candy bar is this: if you love nougat, the King of Nougat will not disappoint you in this candy bar. Is it exactly the same as the original U.S. Mars bar? Not quite, but it's pretty darn good. I agree with our friends at Mars Snackfood US - you should give it a try.

And now, a little nostalgic entertainment for you, compliments of Old Time Candy

Friday, January 23, 2009

Candy Buttons

I love candy, but I was a little stumped when I sat down to write my very first CandyBlog. So many possibilities! And it had to be great! It had to be truly inspired! It had to knock your socks off! So I started surfing the net in search of inspiration, and that's when I found it. So beautiful in its simplicity - classic, but oddly post-modern. That's right! I'm talking about Candy Buttons, folks!

Candy buttons are small rounded pegs of candy (almost pure sugar, I believe) that are attached to a strip of paper. The three flavors on each strip are cherry, lime and lemon. Originally owned by the Cumberland Valley Company, they are now manufactured by NECCO, who produces 3/4 billion Candy Buttons a year. 

What I remember about Candy Buttons is that they were cheap and would supply us kids with a steady stream of sugar all day long, much to our parents' chagrin. We always bought them at Buford's Candy Store in Ocean Beach, and when Buford closed his doors, I thought they were lost to me forever. But they're not! I recently discovered them at North Park Vaudeville and Candy Shop, and the wonderful magic of Candy Buttons was back!

But, while I thought that Candy Buttons were only good for eating, I was so wrong! The folks over at Nylon Magazine have given them a whole new use - fashion! I give you the Candy Button Dress! Perfect for your next... I'll let you decide what it's perfect for.

Yes, Candy Buttons are truly a multi-purpose candy, and the perfect way to kick off the CandyGirl Blog!