The 80s and 90s were magical years when you could go to a shop, ask for 50 cents worth of mixed lollies and expect to be given a bag filled with tasty treats, as long as you were in a lolly shop of some kind at the time. Otherwise being asked to leave and being called some sort of name was probably reasonable. Here is a look back at some of the best treats from the 80s and 90s.
Killer Pythons were a classic jelly snake known for its size, texture and the ability to deliver 3 times a human’s recommended daily intake of sugar in one delicious treat.
Unfortunately in 2014 lolly company Allen’s (owned by Nestlé) altered the Killer Python, with its renowned size being almost halved from 47 grams to 24 in a move that outraged fans so much the story was widely reported by almost every major news network in the country.
Nestlé’s general manager of confectionary, Martin Brown, explained the change was to make it a more appropriate choice and to help people improve their “…nutrition, health and wellness.” The public retaliated, explaining via social media that they don't want to be nutritious, healthy or well, leaving comments on Twitter such as “You should be ashamed”, “The world has gone mad” and “What a bunch of bastards.”
Readers can view or contribute to the outrage using the Twitter hashtag #TreatSizePython, while the hashtag #JustBuyTwoYouDummy remains conspicuously unpopular.
Created in Taiwan, Warheads were a lolly targeting the lucrative market of people who enjoyed eating treats but wanted the process turned into a painful ordeal. The result was a fruit-flavoured hard candy covered by a thin layer of malic acid making them incredibly sour, or, for a period in the 90s, super hot in a discontinued version that was particularly brutal.
Around the schoolyard there were numerous urban legends about kids destroying their tastebuds and burning layers of skin off their tongues after eating Warheads. At the time, the promise of danger and potentially permanent damage seemed like clever marketing designed to make us buy more but there are several clips on Youtube revealing the genuine damage Warheads can do especially when eaten in large quantities.
As a result of documented injuries, Warheads now come with a warning on eating too many but these warnings are really only for people who don't want to cut up their gums or have holes burnt in their tongues. In other words, cowards.
Nerds, Runts and Dweebs
Released in 1983, Nerds were tiny fruit-flavoured creations of the Willy Wonka Candy Company consisting almost entirely of sugar and whatever the ingredient ‘dextrose’ is.
Like the character Willy Wonka from the famed Roald Dahl story, the treats were unique, colourful and potentially hazardous to your health, although not as dangerous as Wonka himself who really should have been in prison due to his criminal negligence resulting in multiple disfigured children including one who got turned into a blueberry, which is surely in violation of workplace safety regulations.
Wonka Candy also released Dweebs, which were a slightly larger and softer version of Nerds, as well as Runts which were harder candies shaped like fruit but with none of fruit’s weaknesses such as vitamins and health benefits.
Dweebs were discontinued after a short time but Runts and Nerds are still sold today, keeping Wonka in business and preserving the memory of a man who didn't like a German boy once, so tried to drown him in a lake.
Delivering a revolution to the world of lollipops in the 1990s, Push Pops allowed kids to eat some, then save the rest for later thanks to an ingenious plastic carry case allowing it to be stored in your pocket, bag or clipped onto your belt like a high powered businessperson.
With a catchy jingle and hefty marketing budget, Push-Pops were surprisingly successful, with an advertising campaign that famously included a bully pushing a much smaller kid who then exclaimed, “Don't push me, push a Push Pop!”
The Australian ad is difficult to find online, so here’s an almost identical Spanish version proving that both lollies and pushing people around are a universal language.
While the ad was a reminder that there are alternatives to bullying, someone saying, “Don't push me, push a Push Pop” is arguably suitable grounds to suggest violence was at least provoked.
Melody Pops were another innovation in the highly competitive lollipop industry, with a slide whistle built into the treat.
A surprisingly functional instrument for a lolly, Melody Pops included a tone-adjusting plastic slider that enabled multiple notes to be played until you had destroyed the whistle’s functionality by eating too much of it. Just like if you eat too much of a real whistle.
With many of us able to play a wide variety of songs on request, as long as it was Hot Cross Buns or Mary Had A Little Lamb, Melody Pops were the perfect way to enjoy a treat and make people want to punch you in the face at the same time.
A chocolate coated caramel treat, Fantales are an old favourite known for their trivia covered wrappers including celebrity ‘Who Am I?’ questions and pop culture facts.
Still sold today, the wrappers are now purportedly updated every two years but updates appeared less common in the 80s, with the trivia often seeming to cover celebrities and movies from much older eras.
As a result of this, and also due to the text commonly being cut off half way through printing, Fantales were perfect for people who wanted to enjoy a treat while reading incomplete biographies of celebrities they had never heard of and test their friends with quiz questions they couldn't find the answers to because the text was cut off and the internet didn't exist yet.
Milkos and Redskins
Often sold side by side, Milkos were a chewy milk-flavoured bar while Redskins were a raspberry variation known for their sweet taste and for allegations of racism not seen in a snack treat since Arnott’s were making these babies:
With the name ‘Redskin’ being a derogatory term for Native Americans and a logo on the packet featuring a stereotypical Indian in full headdress, Allen’s were forced to change the logo in the mid 90s under weight of public pressure.
Here are some Milkos and Redskins featuring the new and old packaging, a higher quality picture of which was hard to find presumably since most people in the 80s and 90s threw rubbish away like it was garbage! We were fools to do so.
Still sold today, there have been calls for Nestlé to change the name of Redskins altogether but the company have been steadfast in their refusal to this point. Still, with attitudes constantly evolving and in the interests of at least causing equal offense, Nestlé’s purported compromise of renaming Milkos ‘Honky Bars’ is a step in the right direction.
Nowadays political correctness has ensured that openly encouraging children to harm themselves has become strangely frowned upon in the candy community but in the 80s Fads sugar sticks did just that, encouraging kids to imitate smoking on top of whatever damage the sugar was already doing to them.
While a product like this may seem crazy now, it must be remembered that Fads were not always as morally reprehensible as they seem today; there was also a long period when they were much worse, known as ‘Fags’ and appearing even more realistic than their current versions. Here is a picture showing the lolly’s progression from horrifyingly evil and offensive for multiple communities, to marginally less so.
Though the original version is no longer deemed acceptable, and it is difficult to understand how it ever was in the first place, the company responsible have clearly learnt from their mistakes and are now hopeful their new line of lolly nooses and children’s ‘set yourself on fire’ kits will be a success.
There were also a number of Sherbet-based treats including Australian classic Wizz Fizz, which was a little bag containing nothing but sherbet and a tiny plastic spoon of almost equal nutritional value.
At 93% sugar and still popular today, consumers can only hope the other 7% is some kind of antidote for diabetes.
There were also Sherbet Fountains, which were another way of delivering almost pure sugar to kids via a stick of licorice, and Sherbies which contained the tangy white powder but with an orange flavoured coating featuring a delicious blend of Food Acid 334 and Food Colours 110 and 123.
Also deserving of a mention is Bubble Tape, which was great for kids who wanted 6 feet of thin, neatly portioned bubblegum or for those of us who wanted to bite into a big slab of gum like it was an apple to see what it was like.
Other well-known treats included White Knights, Heartbeats, Choo Choo Bars, Life Savers, Fruit Tingles and lollies known as Ka-Blueys that turned your mouth blue, which all of these lollies are capable of doing if you eat too many and choke but in Ka-Blueys’ case it was mainly due to food dyes rather than imminent asphyxiation.
Red and green frogs were another childhood staple, although green frogs also fell victim of Allen’s recent product restructure with the line being discontinued due to the irrational reason that they were overwhelmingly unpopular and nobody bought any.
Though many of these lollies are still available today, the rate of depletion is sure to increase with confectioners moving on to new products and people becoming increasingly wary of sugar despite all the good times it has given us, with sugar asking only obesity, dental problems and overall ill health in return.
With food and lollies in particular providing a strong emotional link to enjoyable childhood memories for many, the public reaction to the news Allen’s has discontinued or altered certain products has shown how passionately people feel about their favourite treats. Not passionately enough to have bought any in the last 20 years and help keep them in production obviously but certainly strongly enough to complain about it in public.
So perhaps the lesson is to enjoy your favourite treats while you can as you’ll never know when the choice to not buy green frogs is made for you permanently rather than being the same choice you definitely would have made anyway when it was at least nice to have the option.
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