Tuesday, June 22, 2010

On a Scale of One to Ten:

A candy bar composed of caramel, peanut and almond nougat (so far, so good and also so universal), covered with...delicious white fudge. Hmm. Make that "delicious white fudge," you ingredient swapper-outers at Hershey's. How the Zero Bar has surived since 1920 (or 1931, depending on where you find this product history) is a bit of a mystery, though it is probable that when it was first produced by Hollywood Brands of Centralia, Illinois, it really was made with actual delicious white fudge.

Have you tasted one of these? I finally tried one for the first time at the Sweets & Snacks Expo last month. Very groovy graphics aside (and graphics do count for something), the vile chemical fakeness is quite extreme. I've had more delicious spackle. If this were a new product launch instead of a retro line that has been sold down the river repeatedly (Hollywood was sold to Consolidated Foods/Sara Lee, which sold it to the Finnish company H. Oy, owners of Leaf candy brands in the U.S., which was sold to Hershey's in 1996), it would never have survived. Or been developed in the first place.

If they were launching this bar today and trying to come up with a name for it, it would be obvious how they had arrived at the name Zero: focus groups asked to taste it and rate the flavor on a scale of one to ten would have been the inspiration. Alice Ziplinsky, worshipper of Green & Black's White Chocolate, would have had a great deal of scorn for this "delicious white fudge."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Does a Gummy Army Travel On Its Stomach?

My unscientific yet thorough in its own way analysis of candy preferences tells me that devotion to gummy candy is an overwhelmingly female trait. Maybe the gummy candy people think so too. Why else would they have produced Green Gummy Army Guys? Now you can crawl around in the backyard and have your bloodthirsty war games and eat them too! Surely Alice Ziplinsky would have deplored and also admired this product.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Ingenius Q

Immortalized by Ian Fleming as Q in the Bond books, Charles Fraser-Smith was a resourceful inventor employed by the British Ministry of Supply during World War II to create a panpoly of tools to aid the war effort. His creations included tiny Minox cameras disguised inside cigarette lighters, flashlights with one genuine battery and a dummy 'battery' containing a secret compartment, shaving brushes with secret compartments (accessed by tops that unscrewed the "wrong" way, so any ordinary attempt to 'unscrew' the top would only tighten it), uniform buttons containing a compass or explosive charge, boot laces containing Gigli saws (thin, flexible band saws used by surgeons for brain surgery), maps printed in invisible ink on handkerchiefs which needed to be soaked in urine in order to be seen, cigarette holder telescopes (complete with nicotine stains) -- and that's just a few random examples.

Why tell you about him?

Because he created a garlic-flavored chocolate tablet specifically designed to give secret agents operating behind enemy lines the correct 'continental' breath. Presumably this was chased with a swig of coffee or red wine concealed inside one of those secret compartments. If only Eli Ziplinsky had been asked to produce these garlic chocolate tablets at Zip's Candies for the US Army!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Man Bait!

Last week in Chicago, as I wandered the aisles of the Sweets & Snacks Expo at McCormick Place, I had the recurring hall of mirrors experience of being halfway in the fictional world of True Confections. Certain sweet and snacky items especially made me think that the three iconic candy lines inspired by Little Black Sambo for which Zip's Candies has been known since 1924, as well as some of the newer products manufactured by Zip's, are actually perfectly reasonable, realistic, viable candy lines, in comparison.

Exhibit A: Das Lolli's Man Bait Maple Bacon Lollipops. They're odd. A bit sweet, but why not, given that it's a lollipop. I am not sure how the man baiting is supposed to work. You put them out and men are attracted? But do they swarm you, or your lollipop? What has actually been achieved here?