With Halloween just days away, there’s no better time to mourn the current state of candy. The newer stuff is far inferior to the sweetness of yore, with kids way more into Red Bull than Red Hots.
It seems as though caffeinated beverages have replaced candy as the sugar of choice for today’s youth. It’s not unusual to see 9-year-olds after school sipping 24-ounce BPA-free mugs filled with Starbucks’ banana coconut, tazo green tea with melon syrup, double chocolate chip or white chocolate mocha frappuccinos topped with whipped cream.
But who can really blame the kids for forgoing the candy aisle when even the classics have changed.
A bag of M&Ms isn’t just filled with brown, yellow, orange and green anymore. Blue is now a staple. A few years back they made them in black and white. At Easter they roll out the pastels. Red was taken out of the mix in 1976 when it was believed the dye posed a health hazard. When that proved to be an urban myth, they re-introduced them in 1987 even though everyone knows the little red ones can’t be enjoyed because they have the whiff of cancer on their hard candy shells.
They make M&M Minis, M&M Dark Candies, Pretzel M&Ms, Coconut, M&M candy bars, M&M ice cream. The M&M people might want to talk to the Kardashians about overexposure.
The basic Hershey bar isn’t what it once was, either. No longer does the brown paper wrap encase shiny, silvery foil. Time was there were few things more thrilling than opening up a Hershey’s bar first by unsealing the outside wrapper at its seam and then unfolding the foil slowly at a corner, like Charlie in the (original) Willy Wonka movie when he discovers he got the final the Golden Ticket.
Hershey bars are now sealed in a single layer. It’s a plastic wrap that’s brown in the middle and silver on the ends — obviously trying to look like the old two-layer system. The manufacturers would likely argue they’re saving trees or reducing waste. Blah blah blah. Some things are sacred.
You can’t get baseball cards with gum anymore. The wimpy bigwigs at Topps and Fleer were apparently fearful gum imprints on the cards would tarnish their value. But where else can you find powdery gum that’s jaw-achingly hard as cardboard with little to no flavor?
It’s been years since there’s been a Razzle sighting. Foot-long strawberry Charleston Chews, Fizzies, Fun Dip, Pop Rocks and candy buttons on paper tape are most easily found these days on eBay.
And what kid didn’t enjoy kicking back with a candy cigarette. The cylinder-shaped gum rolled in white paper and boxed in rectangular-shaped packs looked exactly like the real emphysema-causing things. If you blew out on the end, a tiny plume of sugar even flew out of the tip, just like actual smoke. A little puff of heaven, really.
The only candy slightly more fun (and still available in stores today) was Big League Chew. All hail Wrigley’s, the company missing just enough tact and sensitivity to create a product allowing kids to imitate the highly disgusting tobacco-chewing habit of baseball players of yore. (By now, most Major Leaguers have switched to chewing gum during televised games, although it seems as though they haven’t managed to kick their crotch-grabbing habits. One day at a time, fellas.)
Also still manufactured today are Hubba Bubba, Bubbalicious and Bubble Yum. The watermelon, cherry, apple and grape flavors haven’t changed a bit in 25 years. The artificial fruit flavors from each brand all have the same distinct taste. None resembles the actual fruits for which they’re named, but nevertheless, they’re utterly consistent in their real-imitation tastes and that they lose their entire flavor after 70 seconds of chewing.
Like Wrigley’s and Brad Pitt, many candy companies were seemingly missing sensitivity chips when they named their brands. Nerds, Runts, Mega Warhead lollipops and Cry Baby extra sour gum were all the rage back in the day.
If the confection trend moved along at the same rate, we’d now have the option of chocolate crack pipes, candy-coated birth control pills, Sprite-filled syringes and kits containing straws, mirrors and baggies filled with powdered sugar at gas station convenience stores everywhere. If candy is bad for you anyway, why not mix it up and make some of it downright criminal?
Get a pair of wax lips and chew on that.
More at meredithcarroll.com.