A thread of nostalgia connects many of my interests and tastes, so it’s not surprising that candy from my childhood tops the list of snacks I miss. I loved candy that combined great taste with an element of fun, and nothing delivered both quite like the Wonka brand.
In the early 2000s, I–an elementary school student, candy fiend, and voracious reader–was infatuated with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. By the time I had read the book for the tenth time, the Nestlé-owned Wonka brand had released several new treats that brought me closer to Dahl’s world of chocolate rivers, color-changing caramels, and candy eggs that hatch sugar birds.
(Side note: A chocolate lover and historian, Dahl would have liked The Impulsive Buy. Each year, Cadbury’s sent Dahl and his boarding school classmates boxes of chocolate, which the students tested and reviewed for the company — an experience that inspired Dahl to write Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.)
Wonka Bars were my favorite because they had a certain presence that captured the imagination. At 2.5 ounces, the bars were larger than your average grocery store checkout find, wrapped in gold foil and covered in a royal purple sleeve that featured an image of Willy Wonka’s whimsical purple top hat. Every time I held one, I experienced the tiniest of thrills, wondering if a golden ticket lay inside.
Even though I wasn’t as lucky as Charlie Bucket, I was never disappointed. The bars consisted of incredibly smooth and creamy milk chocolate with bits of graham cracker for added taste and texture. I loved them, and because the bars were not widely available in my area, finding one always felt like a successful treasure hunt until they were discontinued in 2010.
Much shorter lived were two of my other favorites from the Wonka line: Oompas and the Xploder chocolate bar. Oompas, chewy fruit-flavored candies, tasted similar to Skittles, but were more brightly colored and at least triple the size.
The Xploder–although smaller and less creamy than the Wonka bar–was exciting. As its fireworks-inspired wrapper hinted, the bar featured unflavored popping candy that crackled in your mouth as the chocolate began to melt.
I hold out hope that one of these products will return. Although Ferrero’s recent acquisition of Nestle’s American brands casts uncertainty on the future of the Wonka line, Netflix’s plans for two animated series inspired by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory create possibilities for promotional tie-in products.
Although I hold similar nostalgic fondness for Wonka mainstays like Laffy Taffy and Everlasting Gobstoppers, they are a little boring compared to the products I miss. When I remember the magical inventions presented in Roald Dahl’s novel, I can’t help but wonder if the Wonka line ever fully reached its creative confectionary potential.