Thank God Reese’s came up with a “new” product, Reese’s Outrageous. It’s like Reese’s Nutrageous, but instead of nuts it mixes Reese’s pieces and caramel in with the chocolate and peanut butter. Too bad they didn’t call it Piecerageous for consistency’s sake. Overall, though, I’m pleased that they added this to their lineup, because I was getting tired of having to choose from only Reese’s, Reese’s King Size, Reese’s Pieces, Reese’s White, Reese’s Dark, Reese’s with Reese’s Pieces (but not outrageous) , Reese’s Big Cup, Reese’s Miniatures, Reese’s Miniatures Party Bag, Reese’s Minis (for those that can’t be bothered to say miniature), Reese’s Fast Break, Reese’s Sticks Wafer Bar, Reese’s Snack Mix, Reese’s Fast Break King Size, Reese’s Crispy Crunchy, Reese’s Nutrageous, Reese’s Crunchy Cookie, and seasonal Reese’s that look like eggs or trees or spooky eyeballs on the wrapper but pretty much look like Reese’s Turds inside.
Since America stopped landing on the moon, the candy mega-makers have chosen to churn out different versions of what they already have, rather than come up with something new. Around board tables, rich people look at their phones and say genius things like, “People like Reese’s. They’ll buy Reese’s anything. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel.” A guy shows up eating a raisin. “We own a raisin company. Let’s make Reese’s Raisin!”
“How about Reese’s Raisin Bites?”
“Give that man a raise.”
“Reese’s Raisin Bites Breakfast Boost! And we’ll reactivate the California Raisins!”
Exclamation points are thrown around the room like oversized panties at a Tom Jones tribute show. Everyone is almost too excited to go golfing.
It seems to be a rule that candy conglomerate creative departments must hire the one guy who wants an Oreo in everything. His job is to say “Oreo” at every brainstorming group and nothing else. Perhaps he grew up in a household like mine in which Oreos were rare, the sorts of things the rich kids had while our cupboards contained only store-brand sandwich cookies. And when he got invited to spend the night at the rich house, he found that the Oreos had been hijacked by a spastic younger brother who licked out all the middles and shoved the box into the freezer for the unsuspecting. His Oreo envy and disappointment drove him to influence the market and make smashed up Oreos available in everything from milkshakes to salad bars. He leaves notes at every restaurant he visits: “The Mac & Cheese was good, but it needed more Oreo.”
I was such a contrarian kid (always the uglY cOUsin), that I bought the bars no one else would touch. I loved Zagnut, which was an inside-out Clark Bar; and I loved the Clark Bar, which was an inside-out Zagnut. There was something satisfying about picking the bits of hardened coconut and peanut brittle from my teeth. They provided hours of entertainment. Mallo Cups, Milkshake bars, and Zeros were go-tos for me. I know these still exist, but they are hard to come by. And no one has invented something new along these lines in years. What happened to malt?
The last time I’m aware of that an exciting new product hit the candy market was in the early 70s when Willy Wonka Super Skrunch and Peanut Butter Oompas were introduced to a generation of dirty-handed, Saturday morning cartoon watching, stingray bike riding youngsters. Oompas were the original Reese’s Pieces, but they were better–bigger, creamier, and without the ET flashbacks. Super Skrunch had a crackly puffed peanut butter interior that has never been recreated.
Since that point, the candy world went route of growth by acquisition rather than innovation and brand building rather than brand developing. Little candy stores run by mysterious older women who never changed clothes because they made only $45 a month and always tried to sell you candy corn in February are a thing of the past.
So the candy bar has followed the path of the music industry, the film industry, and pretty much every consumer product industry toward a strategy of sampling, re-combining, and, re-making. Reese’s can bring us only cross-overs, sequels, and every so often a retro product.
But I hold out hope. Somewhere in the heart of the nation is a young genius experimenting with chocolate, finding new uses for nouget, re-discovering malt, exploring the world of new and exotic sweeteners. Maybe this genius will make maple great again. And someday soon the giant boardroom tables will be overturned and the candy man or candy woman will emerge. The conversation about Cinco de Mayo Chipotle Reese’s (with Oreo!) will be interrupted and ceased as the new bar is unveiled.
[Play inspirational music here.]