WAYSNACK MACHINE: Pop Secret Pop Qwiz Popcorn

Pop Secret Pop Qwiz

Waysnack Machine is a series that looks back at discontinued products.

I’ve always loved popcorn. One of my favorite childhood memories is my dad making it in a pan, pouring the kernels out from one of those big plastic canisters of good ol’ Orville Redenbacher.

I’d stand there in the kitchen, waiting for the first pop, then listening to the following explosion of kernels, until we got down to that three-second count that meant it was ready. Then he would melt some butter in the already-hot pan and pour it over the bowl, adding generous amounts of salt.

There was one point, however, where I took ownership of my own popcorn destiny. That sentence has a really inflated sense of self-importance, but what I’m getting at is that in 1991, Pop Qwiz came out, and ten-year-old me was more than ready for it.

Why would a kid know or care about a very specific brand of popcorn? Well, Pop Secret (the maker of Pop Qwiz) went apeshit bonkers with their marketing. The commercial for Pop Qwiz had D-rate Zach Morris wearing a jacket I swear I owned, zany music, and a bunch of kids trying to win the “qwiz” (ugh) by guessing which color would “pop up next.”

You see, the gimmick behind Pop Qwiz was that it came in small, different-colored bags, but the color of the popcorn inside the bag didn’t necessarily match the color outside. That’s right, it was popcorn that came in neon-bright colors! Red, green, blue, yellow, purple, and…orange? I think orange was the sixth color. Obviously, yellow was the dud, since buttered popcorn already came in that color. I always considered green to be the win, as it seemed to be the most vibrant of the bunch.

Pop Secret Pop Qwiz 2

In addition to the color guessing, there was also a bunch of puzzles and activities on the box. The popcorn equivalent of a breakfast cereal box. Between that and the commercials, who could resist?

It’s a shame the popcorn tasted like flavorless styrofoam and the bag held little more than a handful of popcorn. I’m not sure when Pop Qwiz was discontinued, because my interest soon waned, despite the novelty of colored popcorn. I guess I was just spoiled by my dad’s buttery, salty approach to making popcorn (and the copious amounts I received).

Mystery flavors have made a comeback recently, so I could see Pop Qwiz becoming popular once more. If they did bring it back, they’d better work on taste and portions, though, because novelty wears off quickly.

WAYSNACK MACHINE: Freshen-Up Gum and Soda Liquid Center Gum

Freshen Up Gum

Why are children obsessed with gum? This is purely anecdotal evidence, but as a kid I was always chewing gum, and pretty much every child around me was the same way. I’m not exaggerating; unless I was eating something, I was chewing gum, and sometimes I even tried to do both at the same time. Did you know chocolate makes gum dissolve? I found that out personally, and it is profoundly gross.

I even did that thing where I would “save” my gum overnight, usually by sticking it against the wall since I didn’t have a fancy headboard like every kid who does this in the movies. Why? Couldn’t I just get a fresh piece in the morning? You were weird, child me.

Freshen Up Gum 3

One of my fondest gum memories is Freshen-Up. It came in four flavors – Bubble Gum, Spearmint, Peppermint, and Cinnamon – and when you bit into them, a gel-like/liquid center with the same (but more intense) flavor would squirt into your mouth, which is much more fun than I make it sound.

CC Amurol AW Root Beer liquid center bubble gum pack wrapper 1983

Image via Collecting Candy.

I loved cinnamon Freshen-Up until I found an even more fun version of this concept – soda-flavored squirty gum! My fondest memory is of the A&W Root Beer variety; when you chomped down on it, what amounted to a melted root beer barrel was squirted into your mouth in the most delightful way. I also remember there being a Dr. Pepper variety, and the Internet tells me there were also 7-Up, Cherry 7-Up, RC Cola and even Slush Puppy (?!) flavors.

I never knew it had a brand name, but apparently the manufacturer was Amurol, the folks who brought you Big League Chew, Bubble Tape, and possibly every other novelty gum you’ve ever seen.

I thought Freshen-Up was long gone, but apparently it’s been available on Amazon as late as 2015. I have no idea how long the soda varieties lasted, but they have a distinct 80s feel to them.

I’d love to have the opportunity to bite into a liquid-center soda gum again, but I doubt I would take up the habit. Much like the flavor of the gum stuck to my wall, my desire for gum has all but faded away.

WAYSNACK MACHINE: Planters Cheez Balls

Planters Cheez Balls

I already spend far more time than is mentally healthy talking about discontinued snack food, and this is the one I grumble about the most, usually to my cats because they’re the only ones who will listen at this point. I’m talkin’ about my beautiful, beautiful Planters Cheez Balls.

Packaged in that yellow-lettering-on-blue-background canister that is still used today, Cheez Balls took Mr. Peanut’s cashew can and ramped it up to a size that could store a whole battalion of green Army men.

They were roughly the size of a shooter marble and delightfully crunch yet airy, so much so that you could cram your maw full of them and they’d almost instantly disintegrate into a wonderful cheesy paste.

I remember that my dad initially bought them for my brother, but once I tried them I ate the entire canister, which presumably resulted in me getting an Indian burn. That’s a terribly insensitive name for it, but that’s what it was called.

After that incident we had to have TWO canisters of Cheez Balls in the house at all times, each labeled with our names. Such is the way of sibling life; I’m sure many of you can relate.

Planters Cheez Balls 2

The Internet tells me Planters Cheez Balls were discontinued in 2006, but I feel I stopped seeing them on shelves well before then. I refuse to believe I lived in a world where I did my own grocery shopping and I never bought myself a dozen cans.

“Why don’t you just eat Cheetos Puffs?”

Nobody asks me, because they’re all tired of me talking about it. To them I say that, while Puffs are okay, they’re not the same consistency or the same flavor, plus they lack that poppable sphere form. Planters made a unique product.

The closest thing I’ve found these days is The Snack Artist (a Safeway brand) Cheese Balls, which come in a barrel so large it’s embarrassing to take up to the checkout stand, even by my standards. They’re a bit more dense and the cheese is a little different, but they’re probably your closest bet.

There was a change.org petition to bring them back, and it came just 180 shy of reaching its 1,000 goal. I hope one day to see those big, beautiful blue canisters back on shelves.

REVIEW: Maltesers

Maltesers

If you live in England or some other countries, you might be asking yourself, “Why is The Impulsive Buy reviewing Maltesers?” Presumably you’re asking yourself this question with an accent that those of us who live in the United States find utterly charming.

Well, my far-off friends, us Americans have just been gifted with the arrival of Maltesers, having had to settle for Whoppers to soothe our chocolate and malt-craving sweet tooth during movie viewings. Unless you’d prefer Raisinets, in which case, go sit in another aisle.

It’s impossible to eat these Maltesers without comparing them to Whoppers, so I just went ahead and did that.

First off, Maltesers, a name that gets weirder every time I type it, are made by the Mars Co. I was surprised to find “Made in Great Britain” on the package. Mars isn’t making them in the US, they’re just importing them here now. Whoppers are produced by Hershey’s, the great rival to Mars.

Maltesers 4

As you can see, Whoppers are smaller and have a matte finish, while Maltesers are quite a bit larger and have a shiny, waxy finish to them.

Maltesers 5

While Maltesers are bigger on the outside, they are decidedly less dense than Whoppers on the inside. Having been a Whopper consumer all my life, eating a mouthful for the purposes of comparison was a familiar sensation – weak chocolate flavor and a texture that briefly feels like it’s going to break your teeth before the inside breaks apart, gumming up but giving you that strong malt flavor.

Maltesers 3

Despite both being chocolate-covered malted milk treats, Maltesers are basically the opposite. I popped a few in my mouth and there was little resistance when I chomped down – these candies are just as light and airy as they look. And, like their texture, the malt flavor is also light and airy.

The inside dissolves quickly, leaving you with more of a chocolate taste than anything. But, because this is chocolate made in Great Britain, the quality of it is much higher than that of Whoppers.

So, now you’ve got two malted milk chocolate candy options. Which one you choose is really up to you. I loved the light inner texture of Maltesers and the quality of the chocolate, but they were pretty light on the malt flavor, due to the filling dissolving so quickly. But it’s that airiness that makes them so poppable.

Maltesers 2

When it comes down to it, Maltesers is simply a higher-quality product than Whoppers. It’s got good chocolate and a great texture, although it is light on the malt flavor. But, despite the name, the package doesn’t really play up the maltiness of the candy – it calls them “chocolatey candies” and their trademark is “playful crunch, chocolately delight.” So if that was the goal, Maltesers has delivered hands-down. I blew threw this single-serve bag in an alarmingly short amount of time. They’re dangerously good.

I’ll leave you with a fun fact from Wikipedia: “In the 1930s, advertisements claimed that the Maltesers honeycomb centre is seven times less fattening than ordinary chocolate centres; this led marketers to claim it was beneficial for weight loss.”

Cocaine used to be advertised for weight loss, too! I’d argue it had better results, though. (Just kidding, kids – don’t do drugs!)

(Nutrition Facts – 1 pack – 190 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 65 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 0 gram of fiber, 19 grams of sugar, 3 grams of protein, 8% calcium, 4% iron..)

Purchased Price: $1.49
Size: 1.30 oz. package
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Excellent chocolate quality. Light and airy filling. Doesn’t gum up in your mouth. Cocaine (Just kidding, again!)
Cons: Lacking the malted milk flavor of Whoppers. Silly 1930s weight loss campaigns. I’m no longer sure I’m spelling Maltesers right anymore.

REVIEW: Papa John’s Pan Pizza

Papa John's Pan Pizza 2

Let’s have some real talk about my relationship with Papa John’s.

I’ve been walking the Papa John’s beat for TIB for some years now. New menu item, new toppings – if it’s got that new car, er, pizza smell, I’m on it.

But this doesn’t mean I have some sort of love affair with Papa John’s. You know what I do have a love affair with? Laziness. If every item I wanted to review could be delivered to my door in 40 minutes, I would be very rich in Oreos and very, very poor in dollars.

But there’s no “weird Oreo flavor of the month” delivery service (yet), so instead I find myself reviewing a lot of weird pizza. And that seems to mean reviewing a lot of Papa John’s.

This time around, Papa John’s isn’t doing anything weird. In fact, they’re coming out with something that’s a bit of a classic: the pan pizza.

Papa John's Pan Pizza

Look at that fancy pants box. Or should I say, fancy PANS box. Anyways, Papa John stands smugly in the upper-right corner of the box, compelling you to marvel at his black-and-gold special pizza box that tries to look for all the world like a package of Magnum Ice Cream Bars. Seducing. Beckoning. Pizza.

I always thought that pan pizza was the same thing as deep dish pizza, because I had no culture. I’ve since learned myself, but I actually had to look up what pan pizza really is. What it boils down to is that, instead of being hand-tossed, the pizza is baked in an oiled pan with the dough just sort of shoved up against the edges, resulting in a thicker crust with crispy edges.

Or, as Papa John puts it, “Why do we bake it in a pan? Because it bakes our fresh dough into a thick, hearty crust that’s light and fluffy with crispy edges and cheesy caramelized goodness.”

Since it’s all about the crust here, I’m going to ignore the toppings. (For the record, I chose the Pan John’s Favorite.)

I’mma be real with you – Papa John’s hand-tossed crust is not my favorite. It always seems a little undercooked to me. That said, their pan crust is a study in contradictions.

Papa John's Pan Pizza 4

On the one hand, the outer crust was definitely crispy and somewhat buttery – I enjoyed those aspects of it much more than a regular Papa John’s crust. Also, the cheese goes all the way to the edge, so I didn’t feel like I was left with a half-cooked breadstick at the end of my slice of pizza. The crust under the toppings was chewy without being soggy – also good.

But then there was the flavor. Papa John’s says that the dough is made fresh and with only seven ingredients: flour, extra virgin olive oil, cold-filtered water, sugar, salt, yeast, and oil. Yet, there was an odd, artificial flavor that I couldn’t quite pin down. Given that none of the ingredients are actually artificial, the best I could come up with was the flavor of spoiled oil. If this was the case, then maybe I just got a bad pie?

Papa John's Pan Pizza 3

Papa John’s came so close to giving me a crust I really enjoyed with their Pan Pizza – crispy, crunchy, buttery edges that didn’t even need the included dipping sauce that I usually require in order to ingest the crust of their pizza. But then they went and gave it some weird undertone of flavor that made me feel like I was eating something that wasn’t quite right. So close, Papa, so close.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 slice – 290 calories, 160 calories from fat, 18 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 870 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, 12 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $12.00
Size: 12” pizza
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Not left with a doughy breadstick crust. Fancy, seductive box. Crispy edges. Toppings to all the way to the edge.
Cons: All food should be available for delivery at all times. The artificial/spoiled flavor taints the whole pizza. Only available in one (pretty small) size.