I never thought I’d see the day when ‘80s-style skinny jeans, leggings and high-waist belts would make their way back into modern fashion. (Nor did I think I’d see the day when I’d be wearing them again.) But it happened.
So it should come as no surprise that the confections we once enjoyed as children are back in vogue. (I’m sure Anna Wintour saw this coming.) Maybe it’s the sour economy, which is said to make people remember the good ol’ days. Whatever the reason, everything old is new again, especially to a generation of kids who weren’t here to enjoy said candies (or parachute pants) before.
An increasing number of fashion-forward retailers across the country, including Sugar Factory in Las Vegas (this month’s Retailer Profile), are dedicating floor space to retro candy and chocolate. Brands such as Bit-O-Honey, Mallo Cups and Chuckles used to be rare finds at retail. Today, you can walk right into stores such as Candyality (which just opened its third Chicago location, on the Magnificent Mile) and discover “the best retro/novelty candy selection in the city.”
Consumers who can’t track down the old-school treats they once were so fond of in stores can turn to the Internet. Web sites like www.oldtimecandy.com (“candy you ate as a kid”), www.nostalgiccandy.com (“featuring your favorite penny candy from yesterday “) and www.hometownfavorites.com (“… classic flavors from your childhood!”) offer memorable products such as Wack-O-Wax Lips, Bottlecaps, Candy Buttons, Clark bars, Fizzies, Mary Janes, Slo Pokes, Sugar Daddies, and Beemans and Clove gum (to name just a few). Still no luck? Contact the folks at McKeeSport Candy Co., the wholesaler behind www.candyfavorites.com (“serving candy lovers since 1927”), and they’ll investigate.
Manufacturers of brands such as Hershey’s, Butterfinger, Mike and Ike, Hot Tamales and Peanut Chews also have taken notice of this wistful trend and begun offering products in vintage packages. At www.hersheystore.com, visitors even can purchase nostalgic tins filled with Hershey’s Kisses, Reese’s and Hershey’s Milk Chocolate.
It’s not just Americans who are fanning old confectionery flames. According to a recent article in the United Kingdom’s Daily Record, “sales of retro sweets have rocketed in the recession as Britons hark back to a more carefree time.” (I’m suddenly reminded of Dr. Who’s fondness for Jelly Babies. Sci-fi geeks will know which time-traveling bloke I’m referring to. Hint: Tom Baker.) Apparently, “penny candy” (or “pick ‘n’mix,” as the Brits call it) once sold by the piece for mere cents in candy stores, soda fountains and five-and-dime stores evoke sweet remembrances on both sides of the pond.
What goes around comes around, as my mother (and Justin Timberlake and Alicia Keys) like to say. Not that that’s a bad thing. On the contrary, I have nothing but tasty memories of the candies I enjoyed as a kid.
When I was growing up in Iowa, no trip to Pamida was complete without a stop at the bulk candy counter for some cherry sours. Recently, I stumbled upon a peg-bag of the tart red balls at Walgreens. My face puckered with satisfaction when I sampled the long-lost treat.
Last year, a colleague complained about not being able to find one of his all-time faves at the movie theater. According to Andy, not offering Sno-Caps at concessions is akin to not serving Best’s Kosher hot dogs at Chicago’s U.S. Cellular Field. (I’m told the latter has been replaced by an inferior brand.) He’s not alone in his assessment. According to Nestlé USA, maker of his beloved nonpareils, “Sno-Caps have been a favorite of movie-goers for nearly 50 years.” (I suggest Andy visit www.sugarfactory.com, where he can stock up on a few boxes before his next cinematic outing.)
Speaking of theater candy, West Coast consumers may recall Flicks, “The Chocolate Flavored Treat that comes in a tube.” The product was conceived by the Ghirardelli family back in the late 1890s, according to www.flickscandy.com. Today, it is a part of Flicks Candy Co., which is run by the Tjerrild family. And it comes in the same cylinder for which it is known, in a choice of four foil-wrapper colors.
Yes, it’s back to the future for many brands, thanks in part to the recession. Renewed interest in retro confections may be the only upside of a down economy. (The return of shirt ruffles and shoulder pads certainly isn’t among the perks.)
As McKeeSport Candy Co. asserts, “The future of candy is rooted in the past.” As a resident of the reigning Candy Capital, where some of the oldest brands got their start, I couldn’t agree more.