Augustus, dahling, save some room for later!
July 4, 2017 6:23 AM   Subscribe

As Charlie and the Chocolate Factory opens on Broadway, there will be no Wonka Bars for sale in the lobby - because they no longer exist. In fact, Nestle is considering selling off its Wonka brand entirely, because Americans are eating less candy. Though we still eat plenty of it.
posted by Mchelly (56 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
But the candy business has waned as fewer Americans have displayed an appetite for sweets, and chocolate in particular.

Maybe part of that is due to the terrible quality of most popular American chocolates. Once you've had a better quality product, it's hard to go back to that weird waxy texture. Of course, quality chocolate costs a lot more.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:50 AM on July 4, 2017 [35 favorites]


That, and low carb / paleo / keto and a string of articles saying sugar is poison. Same problem with soft drink industry.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:58 AM on July 4, 2017 [4 favorites]


Consuming two babies-worth of candy is kind of a lot, no?

I sort of sense that the last article feels that it would be more virtuous to just eat two actual babies a year than two baby-weights of candy.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:59 AM on July 4, 2017 [22 favorites]


I sort of sense that the last article feels that it would be more virtuous to just eat two actual babies a year than two baby-weights of candy.

Well sure, high fat, high protein, low carb, low sugar. Only moderate risk of kuru. What's not to like?
posted by Silentgoldfish at 7:11 AM on July 4, 2017 [20 favorites]


As a kid, I could never quite get over the fact that, even though the book described Wonka candy as quintessentially perfect, the Wonka-branded stuff in the store was really just regular candy in reality.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:13 AM on July 4, 2017 [35 favorites]


The Wonka branded candy was always awful in my memory. Inferior non-Oompa-Loompa manufacturing processes, and undoubtedly no children in the C-suite.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 7:16 AM on July 4, 2017 [15 favorites]


The character of Willy Wonka is depicted as a perfectionist - and that of Charlie Bucket of a poor kid who would give up so much in pursuit of a Wonka bar. OK - so most of the attraction is the dream of a golden ticket - but chocolate is also a wild luxury to be savoured for him. Dahl's story is about a time when chocolate bar might arrive just on birthdays and under the Christmas tree and, as readers, we understand that they must be delicious.

Which is why I would dance on the grave of Nestle's mediocre attempt to use the idea of a Wonka bar as a cash generator rather than as an indulgent treat dreamt up by by a mercurial, avuncular eccentric with very deep pockets.

And oddly - if Nestle's had followed that route then their product could have been a trailblazing success in today's more picky market.
posted by rongorongo at 7:21 AM on July 4, 2017 [18 favorites]


Dahl's story is about a time when chocolate bar might arrive just on birthdays and under the Christmas tree and, as readers, we understand that they must be delicious.

Partly it is because I read the books at the same age, but I always saw the Wonka candy in the same way as the Turkish delight in the Narnia books, or the extremely vivid food descriptions in that one Little House on the Prairie book, Farmer Boy. I didn't grow up in a time of rationing or scarcity, so while the food sounded tasty, it didn't resonate with me in the way it might have in an earlier time.

I did find this interesting, though, given the standard stereotype of European diets being better than American ones:

Twenty-two pounds is indeed a lot of candy, but a number of European countries actually consume more. "The average Brit, Swiss or German will each eat around 11 kilograms (24 pounds) of chocolate a year," CNN reported in 2012. That number doesn't include other candies like Haribo gummies, Skittles and other non-chocolate delicacies. Comparatively, the average American tends to consume a modest 11 pounds of chocolate per year — plus an additional 11 pounds of other candy varieties, according to Life in the USA.

posted by Dip Flash at 7:30 AM on July 4, 2017 [6 favorites]


My family still makes jokes about the terrible nature of American chocolate. Was surprised to find out Ghiradelli is basically just Lindt, which is one of the two big chocolate brands here (the other being Cadbury, which is cheaper and more generous but still pretty tasty). Nestle chocolate is a very obvious step down, which is a problem when your brand positioning is 'transcendent chocolate and creative sweets'. I guess Wonka did have the creative sweets stuff down once they forced Nerds into the product line, but even Everlasting Gobstoppers weren't particularly inspiring.
posted by Merus at 7:37 AM on July 4, 2017


Those oompa-loompa's scared the crap out of me as a kid. And, Gene Wilder was sort of creepy too in a creepy uncle sort of way. Loved the movie though.

I know this is blasphemy to say, but my go to candy bar, my number one since I was a wee Augie, is the Nestle's Crunch Bar.
posted by AugustWest at 7:44 AM on July 4, 2017 [5 favorites]


but even Everlasting Gobstoppers weren't particularly inspiring.

When I was a kid these were the only thing in the Wonka line that actually made me feel a bit of the magic. I seriously ate dozens of babies worth of Gobstoppers, and probably still would if my taste buds hadn't decided they didn't like sugar any more.

My wife is from Scotland, and she once in a while tries to get some Cadbury product, but it seems the UK Cadbury is different from ours. Luckily Trader Joe's (and every grocery store, now) sells some nice bars, so it's all good.
posted by Huck500 at 7:47 AM on July 4, 2017 [4 favorites]


The Wonka stuff was always trash, especially in comparison to the quality portrayed in the story, and mass-produced American chocolate is truly trash. And I agree with the above comments, I'm not especially unique and I haven't had anything with added sugar in almost a year.

This is, I think, a perfect opportunity for some gang of Brooklyn hipsters to step in and start banging out decent "bespoke" candy they charge an arm and a leg for.
posted by nevercalm at 7:52 AM on July 4, 2017


The reported decrease in "candy" consumption may be just a labeling thing. I'm not sure what's in those Larabar Kashi Belvita Kind Luna Nice Nature Valley bars, but they certainly satisfy my sugary candy bar cravings.
posted by klarck at 7:54 AM on July 4, 2017 [22 favorites]


Gene Wilder was sort of creepy too in a creepy uncle sort of way

To be fair, it's hard for a reclusive factory owner dealing with the problem of succession with a series of ironic personality tests/punishments to come across as entirely affable, but that was his choice, I suppose.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 7:55 AM on July 4, 2017 [16 favorites]


I don't consider chocolate to be candy. Chocolate is food. Candy, to me, is congealed sugar products, which I also love, but it's not food.

Willy Wonka has to be a bit creepy. The whole thing doesn't work otherwise.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:13 AM on July 4, 2017 [7 favorites]


Can there be fan fiction for candy? Because I'm imagining a story in which the fine people behind Five Star Chocolate Bars acquire the Wonka brand, sit on it for a few years, then relaunch it as a premium candy brand that uses quality and the nostalgic value of the Wonka name to pry large amounts of money out of aging nerds instead of hollow name recognition and waxy garbage to squeeze pocket change out of children.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:16 AM on July 4, 2017 [4 favorites]


For straight up chocolate bars, Rogue Chocolatier has ruined me for life. Like, we don't keep much chocolate in the house anymore because of how goddamn good his stuff is.

But Peanut butter candies? Shittier the better man. Nostalgia takes the wheel and that stuff always tastes amazing to me.
posted by furnace.heart at 8:18 AM on July 4, 2017 [1 favorite]


Oh, those "health" bars are definitely glorified candy bars--and more filling versions at that!

And seriously, Americans are eating fewer chocolate in particular? (as opposed to other sweets). It's not chocolate that's the problem, chocolate didn't do anything.

The Wonka brand's real problem was that it didn't make enough quality chocolate and focused instead on garbage sour candy like Nerds and SweeTarts, which tastes as cheap as it is. Do people really prefer sour candy over delicious, time-honored chocolate?
posted by Delia at 8:18 AM on July 4, 2017


Previously: It's not chocolate. It's the ground up ash of the American Dream.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:26 AM on July 4, 2017 [1 favorite]


Anyone who has an Aldi nearby should check out their chocolate, for the record. I can't remember the last time I bought chocolate bars anywhere else, and they're incredibly good quality for the price.
posted by nonasuch at 8:32 AM on July 4, 2017 [8 favorites]


I also don't consider chocolate to be candy. It's chocolate. You can have chocolate-covered candy, and candy-covered chocolate, but chocolate is chocolate and candy is everything else.

Do people really prefer sour candy over delicious, time-honored chocolate?

Absolutely. I never liked chocolate, and never ate more than the pointy tip of a Hershey's kiss per year until well into my 40s, and I can eat a half-pound of Lemonheads in a sitting without even thinking about it. I'm working on incorporating chocolate into my life, but it's merely a gastronomical project. I love buying chocolate for people who love it, though.
posted by rhizome at 8:45 AM on July 4, 2017 [4 favorites]


Maybe part of that is due to the terrible quality of most popular American chocolates. Once you've had a better quality product, it's hard to go back to that weird waxy texture. Of course, quality chocolate costs a lot more.

I daresay quality chocolate costs a lot less - - if you are just talking about the actual chocolate/cacao content. With American chocolate bars, you're actually pay a fortune for the cheap sugar that makes up the majority of the product.
posted by fairmettle at 8:46 AM on July 4, 2017


The closest to real life Willy Wonka is probably Tootsie Roll. Unlike all the big corporate candy, the operation is controlled by one family who has refused to sell out. And they are famously secretive about their factory and operations.
posted by vacapinta at 8:57 AM on July 4, 2017 [10 favorites]


I still miss their Dino-Sour Eggs :[
posted by sexyrobot at 8:58 AM on July 4, 2017 [6 favorites]


I sort of sense that the last article feels that it would be more virtuous to just eat two actual babies a year than two baby-weights of candy.

That's a modest target.
posted by Leon at 9:12 AM on July 4, 2017 [13 favorites]


The closest to real life Willy Wonka is probably Tootsie Roll.

Red Vines and It's It fit the mold, too.
posted by rhizome at 9:23 AM on July 4, 2017 [3 favorites]


I remember reading that the candy bars in the 1972 film were real: they were merchandise you could buy for the next two years. Apparently the film was produced at a loss, and they made the money back on those chocolate bars. I don't know how it evolved into the current line, though.

The quality of candy bars is an interesting thing. You have three choices when inflation kicks in: 1) raise prices (and get a revolt like the Canadian post-war children's candy strike) 2) reduce the size of the bar (as many did) 3) reduce the cost of a similar-sized bar (as Hershey's did).

So when you read some WWII story about how much people loved Hershey's chocolate bars, remember that this was before a many-decade literal dilution of the chocolate content within.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 9:23 AM on July 4, 2017 [3 favorites]


As a matter of fact, the Wonka company began with the release of the movie in order to sell the candy they licensed from Roald Dahl. The evolution of the company no doubt was driven by a desire to shed that licensing overhead.
posted by rhizome at 9:28 AM on July 4, 2017


Dahl's story is about a time when chocolate bar might arrive just on birthdays and under the Christmas tree and, as readers, we understand that they must be delicious.

I dunno, even here while we still buy a bar or two of cheap store-brand chocolate every month, in Christmas we buy some fancier stuff, like those belgian or swiss boxes.
posted by lmfsilva at 9:29 AM on July 4, 2017


Americans may eat less candy than Europeans, but they eat a hell of a lot more sugars overall.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:38 AM on July 4, 2017


Partly it is because I read the books at the same age, but I always saw the Wonka candy in the same way as the Turkish delight in the Narnia books…

When I travelled to Turkey at the age of 21 and went to the Egyptian Bazaar, with mounds and mounds of Turkish delight, a previously strange, magical, perhaps fictional sweet that tasted like, who knows?, and I could actually buy it and taste it, it was kind like finding a real-life lightsaber store in a mall. A little element of fantasy stepping off the page and into my mouth.
posted by signal at 9:40 AM on July 4, 2017 [13 favorites]


That Scharffen Berger's bars have gone unmentioned in a thread about chocolate is a shameful omission that I must immediately redress. Their Nibby bar is my absolute go-to. Like, I go through two a week on the regular. But all their line that I've tasted is the best mass-produced U.S. chocolate I've had.
posted by the sobsister at 9:41 AM on July 4, 2017 [3 favorites]


Do people really prefer sour candy over delicious, time-honored chocolate?

Lumping all these things into the same category because they have a lot of sugar in them has always struck me as weird. It's like asking "Do people really prefer pizza over hearty lasagna?" because they both usually have tomato sauce.

They're totally different things. My Nerds (I love Nerds) craving is completely different from my Mars Bar craving.
posted by Shepherd at 9:51 AM on July 4, 2017 [7 favorites]


I don't know if it's due to the woeful quality of most mass-produced chocolate in the US as much as a fear of sugar. And boy do they have a lot of sugar.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 9:57 AM on July 4, 2017


I get the feeling that any descriptions of candy and sweets in post-WW2 Britain lives in the memory of sweet rationing. Sweets and sugar were rationed until 1953. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was published in 1964. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is 1950. There's a whole thing about "is this too sweet?" that probably dates from then.

Also, bagging on Hershey is the free space in Metafilter Chocolate Bingo. To be fair, the people who loved it in WW2 didn't have any other chocolate.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 10:20 AM on July 4, 2017 [13 favorites]


As a UK child of the 1970s my perception of Turkish delight in Narnia was heavily coloured by the foul Fry's variety. The only sweet you would give away. It was baffling to me how this would persuade any child into action.
posted by biffa at 10:25 AM on July 4, 2017 [2 favorites]


I feel the same about Necco wafers, but there are people who honestly like them.
posted by rhizome at 10:46 AM on July 4, 2017 [2 favorites]


I feel the same about Necco wafers, but there are people who honestly like them.

And I am one of them. Badmouth the Neccos, I will do donuts.

On.

Your.

Face.
posted by Samizdata at 11:19 AM on July 4, 2017 [8 favorites]


They're totally different things. My Nerds (I love Nerds) craving is completely different from my Mars Bar craving.

What this guy said - though if I had to choose between chocolate and hard/chewy/sour candy I'd go with the latter.
posted by atoxyl at 11:32 AM on July 4, 2017 [2 favorites]


Fruit is nature's candy.
posted by FJT at 11:56 AM on July 4, 2017


I feel the same about Necco wafers, but there are people who honestly like them.

I'm with you on that. The only use I ever found for those nasty little disks was shooting them with an airgun, like little clay pigeons.

Not a big chocolate fan. I tend to agree that energy bars have taken a large share of market space from traditional candy bars. Literally, even, as the local supermarket dedicated a good portion of shelf space to the large variety of them available. The thing that puzzles me about energy bars is that they seem to be pretty much candy bars, made less palatable, in an attempt to make them seem healthier. While I do eat one every now and then, I have yet to find any flavor or brand that makes me think, "Wow, I want to get more of these!". They all seem to me to taste equally mediocre, gritty and bland regardless of flavor. Maybe you get some extra protein to help justify the cost, as they can get kind of pricey. I'd just as soon have a Payday bar.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:23 PM on July 4, 2017 [1 favorite]


As a matter of fact, the Wonka company began with the release of the movie in order to sell the candy they licensed from Roald Dahl.

You're not far enough down the rabbit hole.

The movie was financed by Quaker Oats to boost sales at their Breaker Confections division (renamed Wonka at release of the movie).
posted by JoeZydeco at 12:35 PM on July 4, 2017 [3 favorites]


This is a very familiar story of a start-up founded by a lone visionary failing to scale up. For all his brilliance as a candy maker, Wonka's succession planning was a disaster. No doubt against the advice of his investors, Wonka insisted on passing the company torch to someone who would share his moral vision, in the expectation that, if that was in place, the candy making would take care of itself.

This was clearly not the case. Charlie Bucket may be remembered as a fine, upstanding man, but as a candy maker, he was no Willy Wonka, and as a businessman, he wasn't much at all. The quality of the candy took an obvious nose dive under his guidance, and the company was unable to remain independent. Eventually, as we all know, Wonka was bought out by Nestle, and the decline in the reputation of this once world-leading brand continued to the present day, a sad reflection of what once was.
posted by Naberius at 12:57 PM on July 4, 2017 [24 favorites]


While I do eat one every now and then, I have yet to find any flavor or brand that makes me think, "Wow, I want to get more of these!". They all seem to me to taste equally mediocre, gritty and bland regardless of flavor.

what about these bastards though, I can't stand it, they are so good

Unlike a candy bar, an energy bar will actually make a decent breakfast, especially if you are traveling or running low on time and don't want to stand in a long line for hot food. I have now Reformed, though, and have been avoiding refined sugars and processed grains such as even the most pretentious energy bars have. Restricting the diet does create a fantastic bounce-back effect when you do taste chocolate and it's like you never have.
posted by Countess Elena at 1:03 PM on July 4, 2017


This was clearly not the case. Charlie Bucket may be remembered as a fine, upstanding man, but as a candy maker, he was no Willy Wonka, and as a businessman, he wasn't much at all. The quality of the candy took an obvious nose dive under his guidance, and the company was unable to remain independent. Eventually, as we all know, Wonka was bought out by Nestle, and the decline in the reputation of this once world-leading brand continued to the present day, a sad reflection of what once was.

It was all Grandpa Joe's fault. The bastard, who lied about not being able to walk for all those years and forced his own daughter to work like a slave in a laundry, cooked the books once they got control of the Wonka empire. Several Oompa-Loompas accused him of sexual harassment. Then there were the rumors that he straight-up gave the Everlasting Gobstopper recipe to Slugworth in return for a sweetheart buyout deal, only to have Slugworth reneg on the whole thing at the last minute. By the time Charlie was forced to sell out to Nestle for pennies on the dollar, Grandpa Joe had long since screwed off to some sweet tropical island with a suspiciously-orange looking "traveling companion".
posted by briank at 1:12 PM on July 4, 2017 [10 favorites]


I sort of sense that the last article feels that it would be more virtuous to just eat two actual babies a year than two baby-weights of candy.

Yeah but that article's just about candy. If we just consider only chocolate, this Forbes article has different statistics but lists the Swiss at most-per-capita with the Germans not far behind, both devouring a double chocolate baby-weight per year.
posted by Rash at 1:35 PM on July 4, 2017


Was surprised to find out Ghiradelli is basically just Lindt

In the same sense that Cadbury is basically just Mondelez, I guess. Ghirardelli was around for almost 150 years before Lindt bought them out.

That said, yeah, Ghirardelli and Lindt both occupy about the same middle stratum between the bottom and top tiers.

My favorite recent find would be Vosges' Turmeric Ginger bar.
posted by Shmuel510 at 1:39 PM on July 4, 2017


A version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Broadway cannot compare with the inexplicable entity that is Tom And Jerry and Charlie And The Chocolate Factory.
posted by egypturnash at 2:14 PM on July 4, 2017 [2 favorites]


You know, I like good chocolate as well, but my go-to travel snack is a Hershey's bar with almonds. I buy it with a magazine at the Hudson's near my gate at the airport. Milk chocolate and almonds are the best combination for a snack - definitely not healthy, but delicious and pretty satisfying. The chocolate is indeed kind of waxy but honestly, I kind of like that. I don't eat this at any other time.
posted by lunasol at 2:24 PM on July 4, 2017 [2 favorites]


Has anyone yet given this story the wicked-witch-of-the-west treatment, with a novel from Slugworth's POV?
posted by thelonius at 2:25 PM on July 4, 2017 [5 favorites]


You can have my Nerds (and Necco Wafers) when you pry them from my cold, dead lips.

Also, Guittard chocolate is the best.
posted by ApathyGirl at 2:26 PM on July 4, 2017


Wonka was bought out by Nestle, and the decline in the reputation of this once world-leading brand continued to the present day, a sad reflection of what once was.

As documented in this rare photograph of the hostile corporate takeover.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 4:09 PM on July 4, 2017 [8 favorites]


Has anyone yet given this story the wicked-witch-of-the-west treatment, with a novel from Slugworth's POV?

The whole Slugworth plot was invented for the movie, thelonius. He's a one-off mention in the book.

Glad someone mentioned the Quaker Oats connection. They were really the driving force in the movie getting made. A mysterious person once emailed me some background info about the making of the film: "I’ve always felt that the studio might have tried a bit harder and been more creative in promoting and exploiting this admittedly unusual movie if it had actually made and owned the film."

There was also a behind-the-scenes book written by the director Mel Stuart a few years back that talks about it.

One of the big inspirations Dahl had for Wonka was when he was at school at Repton. Cadbury's factory wasn't far away, and every now and then they'd send over a selection of new chocolates for the boys to sample and review. Dahl talks about this in his autobiography Boy.

- Your resident MeFi Dahl expert...
posted by web-goddess at 4:45 PM on July 4, 2017 [9 favorites]


As a UK child of the 1970s my perception of Turkish delight in Narnia was heavily coloured by the foul Fry's variety.

Ironically, it Fry's who - despite all their modern day mediocrities under other owners - must be given the credit for bringing the world the chocolate bar in the first place. Before that chocolate was strictly a drink.

Here, by the way, is a short history penned by Dahl himself: The Chocolate Revolution - he, of course, disagrees with my assertion above about Frys.

Can there be fan fiction for candy? Because I'm imagining a story in which the fine people behind Five Star Chocolate Bars acquire the Wonka brand, sit on it for a few years, then relaunch it as a premium candy brand

My preferred fan fiction would re-cast the Oompah-loompas as Mayans: the true inventors of chocolate and believers in employing it as part of various sacraments that often involved children and ended un-prettily. See where the story might take itself form that point...
posted by rongorongo at 6:07 AM on July 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


It was a very happy day when I discovered that Tart 'n Tinys are once again available. The old-school kind, not the candy-coated impostors. : ) They are made by Leaf now, not Wonka.

And I loved the Wonka bars with graham crackers inside. I wish those would come back!
posted by SisterHavana at 2:22 PM on July 5, 2017


I still miss their Dino-Sour Eggs :[
posted by sexyrobot at 11:58 AM on July 4


It was a very happy day when I discovered that Tart 'n Tinys are once again available. The old-school kind, not the candy-coated impostors. : ) They are made by Leaf now, not Wonka.
...
posted by SisterHavana at 5:22 PM on July 5


I have found my people.
posted by Mchelly at 2:44 PM on July 5, 2017 [4 favorites]


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