Reuters blogger Jessica Wohl reported a few months ago on a Brand Keys survey whose results tell us, among other things, that men eat a good deal more chocolate when times get tough. A cursory survey of the average man’s expanding waistline could have told us as much!

At any rate, the survey of 750 American men aged 25 to 65 reports that the urge to munch on some chocolatey comfort is very common in just about every demographic therein. The most popular items are, naturally, candy bars, with the top 10 occupied exclusively by the Big Three (Mars, Hershey and Nestle). Snickers reigns supreme, with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Kit Kats nipping at its chewy heels.

Now, the survey was concerned with gauging men’s chocolate-eating habits and how they compare with past surveys. The survey did not take into account how many men were eating more chips, say, or fast food. Shameless cocoa cravings were exclusive. On the whole, I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to assume empty calorie consumption is on the rise overall. Research scientists say that there’s no longterm benefit to gorging on candies and other snacks, but everyone knows we can’t resist a little ill-advised splurge when things get rough.

The report claims that there are no physiological payoffs to eating an increased amount of chocolate, though there are possible short-term boosts in pleasure centers in the brain. My theory: Men reach for treats that have been with them all their lives, from carefree childhood to today. Just like favorite songs and old friends, chocolate and other candies provide a tangible link to simpler, less stressful times.

Russian immigrant Robert Altshuler arrived in the United States in 1917. Working hard, Altshuler saved his money and learned all the right skills, and by 1950 he was ready to found the Annabelle Candy Company. Named for Altshuler’s daughter and dedicated to delicious, high-quality West Coast treats, Annabelle is ground zero for West Coast candy.

Learning by trial and error, Altschuler arrived at the idea for the Rocky Road bar, a nutty, marshmallowy, incredibly messy but infinitely rewarding bar. The Rocky Road took off, and soon Annabelle moved from its San Francisco, California factory to a newer, expanded factory in Hayward where it prospers still.

Altschuler passed away in 1971, never seeing his company grow to match the powerhouses of Mars and Hershey’s, but still guiding Annabelle to a position of West Coast mainstay that thrives even today. Through canny acquisitions, the company has increased its stable of high-profile candy bars to include Big Hunk and Look (from the Golden Nugget Candy Co.), in addition to the U-NO and universal favorite Abba Zaba (formerly Cardinet Candy Co. confections). The Annabelle Candy Company offers today the same handmade delights that made its name over half a century ago, and its eight permanent offerings enjoy lofty spots in the upper echelons of West Coast snacking.

Thankfully, the retro candy trend has brought Annabelle treats waaaaaaay out East. Curious readers can find an Abba-Zaba or Rocky Road in just about any dedicated candy store and novelty shop, provided the slight mark-up isn’t too much to bear. And you can always order direct from Annabelle’s website: www.annabelle-candy.com

Here’s a brief rundown of Annabelle’s top tier treats (photos courtesy annabelle-candy.com):

Rocky Road

Rocky Road: Tastes just the ice cream bearing its name, though the traditional almonds of rocky road ice cream are replaced here with roasted cashews. I’m not a cashew fan, but I always make an exception for the marshmallow malt of a Rocky Road.

U-NO

U-NO: A truffle-ish center with almond bits coated in milk chocolate, the U-NO dates to the 1920s, by far the oldest candy bar in the Annabelle family (er, by adoption). It’s super fluffy, but don’t let it dry out, lest you eat something akin to chocolate coated styrofoam.
Abba-Zaba
Abba-Zaba: Tom Waits don’t want no Abba-Zaba, but the man’s a certifiable nut anyway. This delicious vanilla-like taffy bar is filled with creamy peanut butter, guaranteed to pull out your fillings but leave you supremely unconcerned, all things considered. Also a 1920s throwback, confirming that the ’20s was the most delicious decade of American confections. The Zaba’s available in two variations, one with a chocolate center instead of peanut butter, and another with green apple taffy and peanut butter.
Big Hunk

Big Hunk: Ah! Truth in adverising indeed! A big fat block of honey nougat made even fatter with roasted peanuts. Very good, and surprisingly low in fat (only 3 grams of fat per 2-ounce bar). Much like the Abba-Zaba, a Big Hunk typically takes me about three weeks to gnaw down. A good investment!

Look

Look: I’ve never come across a Look yet, but its molasses-flavored nougat sprinkled with roasted peants and coated in dark chocolate leaves me, er–Looking.

Courtesy Neatorama, another stroll through the graveyard of long-gone candy bars. These deceased treats were found in the research and Candy Bar Gazebo zine of, of course, Ray Broekel.

THE AIR MAIL BAR. Introduced in 1930 to honor the first airmail flight in the U.S. – in 1918, from Washington, D.C. to New York City. Ironically, the first flight never made it to New York. After takeoff, the pilot noticed someone had forgotten to fill the fuel tank. Then he got lost over Maryland and had to land in a cow pasture. The Air Mail candy bar had a similar fate.

FAT EMMA. In the early 1920s, the Pendergast Candy Company in Minneapolis introduced a candy bar with a nougat center. They planned to call it the Emma bar. But when it wound up twice as thick as expected (they accidentally put too much egg white in the mixture), they changed the name to Fat Emma. Later, Frank Mars copied the idea to create the Milky Way bar.

THE SAL-LE-DANDE BAR. The first candy bar named after a stripper – Sally Rand, whose “fan dance” at the 1933-34 Chicago World’s Fair shocked and titillated the nation. In the 1960s, another stripper bar was available briefly: the Gypsy bar, named after Gypsy Rose Lee.

The Red Grange Bar

THE RED GRANGE BAR. Endorsed by Red Grange, the most popular football player of his day. After starring at the University of Illinois, he joined the Chicago Bears in 1925 and helped keep the National Football League in business. Unfortunately, he couldn’t do the same for his candy bar.

THE VEGETABLE SANDWICH BAR. One of the weirdest “health” bar ever made, this 1920s vegetable concoction contained cabbage, celery, peppers, and tomatoes. Its makers claimed that it aided digestion and “will not constipate.”

THE ZEP CANDY BAR. “Sky-High Quality.” One of several candy bars that capitalized on the popularity of “lighter-than-air” dirigibles in the 1930s. This one featured a sketch of a Graf Zeppelin on the wrapper. It was taken off the market after the Hindenburg exploded in 1937.

THE CHICKEN DINNER BAR. One of the bestselling bars you’ve never heard of. It was introduced in the 1920s and remained on the market for about 50 years. The original wrapper featured a picture of a roasting chicken on a dinner plate – a bizarre way of suggesting it was a nourishing meal and encouraging customers to associate it with prosperity (“a chicken in every pot”). The manufacturer, Sperry Candy Co., even dispatched a fleet of Model A trucks disguised as giant sheet-metal chickens to deliver the candy to stores. Several years after the bar’s debut, Sperry dropped the chicken from the wrapper. But it kept the name.

THE BIG-HEARTED “AL” BAR. George Williamson, owner of the Williamson Candy Company, was a good Democrat and a good friend of New York governor Al Smith, Democratic nominee for president in 1928. Smith lost in a landslide to Herbert Hoover, and his candy bar soon followed.

Seven Up

THE SEVEN UP CANDY BAR. Got its name from having seven connected pieces, each with a different center. The bar came out in the 1930s, before the 7-Up Bottling Company began production of its soft drink – so the Trudeau Candy Company owned the trademark rights to the name. Eventually the 7-Up Bottling Company bought the bar and retired it, so they had exclusive use of the name no matter how it was spelled – Seven Up or 7-Up.

THE “IT” BAR. The #1 female sex symbol of the silent movie era was Clara Bow – known as the “It Girl.” (She had that special quality her movie studio called “It.”) In 1927 the McDonald Candy Company of Salt Lake City tried cashing in on her popularity with a candy bar featuring her face on the wrapper. It did well for a few years, then disappeared along with Bow. (She wasn’t able to make the switch to talkies, because although she was lovely to look at, her Brooklyn accent made her impossible to listen to.)

Also Gone: The Betsy Ross bar, the Lindy (for Charles Lindbergh), Amos ‘n’ Andy, Poor Prune, Vita Sert, and Doctor’s Orders.

That’s About Four Fish

October 3, 2008

The National Confectioners Association released a statement last week trumpeting the confectionary trend toward portion-controlled candy packs. Just in time for Halloween, adults can now slyly remind fat kids that candy won’t really make them happy…I guess.

Isn’t it counter-intuitive to offer 100-calorie packs of Swedish Fish and Sour Patch Kids when the primary goal of Halloween is to horde as much candy as humanly possible? Bringing home a haul of six pounds of 100-calorie packs will hardly deter a ravenous tot from eating four pounds before bedtime (and the remaining two pounds for breakfast).

If members of the NCA are really trying to help kids develop sensible eating habits, that’s great. I think it’s a parent’s role to instill children with respect for a diet of reasonable portions of diverse, healthy foods, but if diet fad mentality helps, well alright.

But as far as I’m concerned, 100-calorie packs make it much easier to tabulate by exactly how much I’ve ruined my appetite. 16 x 100? That’s my kinda math!

Tainted Candy In CT

October 3, 2008

Hartford, Connecticut’s WFSB reports of Melamine-Tained Candy Found in CT

You’d think that with a name like White Rabbit you’d just about expect some sort of crazy chemical to be present. Go ask Alice.

In all seriousness, though, these candies are imported from China and do not reflect the candy making efforts of American companies. Products tainted with melamine are typically manufactured and distributed in Asian countries, Australia and perhaps New Zealand. Candies marketed in the US and Western Europe are manufactured elsewhere.

Cadbury chocolate manufactured in the company Beijing factory has melamine present, but not in levels sufficient to harm consumers. Regardless, Cadbury has voluntarily recalled the products. Other foodstuffs of Asian origin, including Pocky and Nabisco cracker cheese sandwiches–again, NOT sold in the United States–have shown elevated and sometimes dangerous levels of melamine. Products sold under these brand names are manufactured elsewhere and do not demonstrate risk of melamine contamination.

Sugar Boost

October 3, 2008

I have an absolutely airtight alibi, I swear.

Dylan’s Candy Bar, New York’s chic sugar shop, recently lost $7000 in a late-night stick-up. Sour thug robs high-end sweet shop

The man burst into the store and took cash? Did he not notice the decor? Had I robbed the place the authorities would’ve nabbed me in about 12 minutes–follow the trail of Big Hunk wrappers and the sound of maddened glee, coppers.

Dylan's Candy Bar

There’s always fruit in my apartment, but of course there’s always candy too. More often than not the fruit gets tossed. I almost always run out of candy.

Dutch researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands can help explain this Grand Canyon-esque gulf between my intentions and what I end up doing. Why we simply can’t resist “sinful” snacks

Basically, the parts of our brain that note intentions and dictate impulse don’t cooperate. So while an individual knows rationally that, say, a handful of grapes are a more rewarding snack, it shouldn’t be a surprise when they reach for a convenience food or something more immediately gratifying like a donut.

It’s a great scapegoat if you can’t stick with your diet, but can this be applied to other aspects of our lives? Like, the part of my brain that notes time isn’t communicating with the part that cares whether or not I’m late for work, so it’s not my fault? It’s my noggin needin’ rewiring?

George Costanza Candy ID Quiz

September 26, 2008

Mental_floss, the preeminent purveyors of trivia/crack, have posted the George Costanza Candy Identification Quiz on their site.

For shame. I admit with a heavy heart that I switched the Milky Way and 3 Musketeers bars. I forgot that 3 Musketeers are larger; they don’t have caramel and accommodate more fluffy, delicious nougat.

Martian Science

September 26, 2008

Scientists from Mars, Inc.’s research arm Mars Botanicals say that cocoa flavanols can be used to develop medical treatments to improve blood flow and other blood vessel functions. Read here.

This is great news. Almost as great as when they announced coffee was actually very good for–well, I don’t know. I didn’t need to hear anything after that. The best part, though? The general manager of Mars Botanicals is Mary Wagner, creator of Taco Bell’s Chalupa. That’s science gold you can take to the bank!

First Wax, Now Vegetable Oil

September 26, 2008

ABC News reports Chocolate Lovers Pained By Candy Changes

Citing rocketing price costs and insinuating that “lesser” candy bars deserve lesser ingredients, Hershey has been replacing traditional cocoa butter with less expensive vegetable oil in many of its products.

Photo courtesy ABC News

Photo courtesy ABC News

In other cringe-worthy news, The Consumerist noted that Hershey’s Kissables can no longer be considered milk chocolate by FDA standards. They’re just kinda chocolate-like candy now, a careful rephrasing that means a lot. Check it out.

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