So, maybe this year, we won’t get to enjoy the usual Halloween festivities we typically would.
No costume party ragers, no taking the kids through the neighborhood for trick or treating, no zombie walks or haunted houses, and absolutely no blood-sucking. So maybe this year, it’s time to slap the sweatpants on once again, fill a bowl full of candy and popcorn—hell, put it all in the same bowl just to feel alive for once—and have yourself a scary flick fest on Shudder with Joe Bob Briggs.
But amid all this uncertainty and chaos that reigns over this un-Halloween, there is ONE thing, one certainty you can still rely on right this very second—candy.
It’s in that spirit that we decided to celebrate some of our most favorite pieces of candy packaging. And why? Well, for the most part, the branding and the design of some of your favorite gums and candies don’t really change all that much, and in a world where we’re sure of nothing, that feeling of constancy is, well, comforting. Part of this is by design. After all, candy makers aren’t just in the sugar business-they sell nostalgia. Some of the packaging is downright comical and wild, while others lure you in with their gorgeous typefaces with designs that are as iconic as the sweet little nothings inside. Or maybe it’s just an innovative vessel for sugar. Regardless, as long as there’s been candy, beautiful packaging has been there to box it all up.
Now, some of you might ask yourself, “Where’s Mast Bros?” Or, “What about this $15 artisanal chocolate bar made I bought in Paris?” To which we would say, that’s not what this is. We want to talk about the candy of our youth, the stuff we schlepped to the 7-Eleven or the bodega for, and even some of the international curiosities and flavors we always dreamed of trying.
So, preamble aside, here’s our totally unscientific top 25 pieces of candy packaging of all time.
25. Red Vines
While the Wallace Church & Co. refresh of Red Vines is a winner, so is the original packaging from the 1950s with its old Hollywood feel. No wonder it’s a staple of movie theaters and a crazy delicious combination with Mr. PiBB.
Of course, the real question might be whether Twizzlers are better. The answer, objectively, is yes. But the Red Vines packaging is supreme, and we’re not talking about flavorless licorice whips here (sorry Chris Parnell and Andy Samberg).
24. Pelon Pelo Rico
Tamarind candy is goddamned tasty, but also, WHO IS THIS GREEN PERSON AND WHY DOES THIS LOOK LIKE A NASAL SPRAY??? But seriously, if a candy looks like something we should shoot up our nose, then consider us a lifelong customer.
While Peko-chan might not be as iconic as, say, Hello Kitty, you’d be hard-pressed not to find the mascot licking her lips at any candy shop or convenience store across Japan. She also serves as a reminder of the power of a brand mascot, gracing the packaging for this milky sweet confection since 1951.
22. Tootsie Pop
There’s just something about the way the bubble letters of the “pop” in the logo wrap around the lolli, but part of the brand’s longevity is also tied to an urban legend. Once you get your Tootsie Pop, you have to search the wrapper for the Native American man shooting his bow—if your wrapper has him unloading his quiver at a shooting star, you can redeem the wrapper for another free Tootsie Pop.
Except that’s not true.
And Big Tootsie has no clue how the rumor even started, having to unfurl the lies of our childhood on their own website. In fact, the shooting star appears on every 1 in 4 to 6 wrappers, so good luck trying to get that free sucker.
Yes, they’re just sugar crystals covered in multiple layerings of more sugar and an almost neon sheen, but the real draw of Nerds has always been the dual-chamber box. As a kid, it felt like you were getting two packets in one (you weren’t), and you could mix your flavors or keep them forever isolated from one another like the most OCD plate in Thanksgiving history. It even spawned a now-extinct cereal in 1986 that tasted a lot like stale sugar and regret.
20. Kit Kat
While Kit Kat’s chocolate origins date back to 1911, it wasn’t until 1935 when a Rowntree’s employee suggested the company develop a chocolate bar that could easily get tucked away in a worker’s lunch sack that the delight came to fruition. Hence the flat, break-apart chocolate fingers. Fast forward to today, and you have a global phenomenon, particularly in Japan, where the treat has become a vehicle for green matcha, wasabi, and even a baked sweet potato variants. But through it all, minus a few logo detours, the oval “Kit Kat” emblem has remained much the same.
19. Pop Rocks
Ah, yes. The candy that made millions of moms wonder if this was something safe for their children to consume.
And why wouldn’t they? Just take a gander at that tiny pouch—it succinctly captures the chemical reaction happening inside your mouth as you swirl them around. Basically, you get a teensy piece of hard candy embedded with pressurized carbon dioxide. Once it dissolves, you get the snap, crackle, and pop sensation in your mouth from all of the gas bubbles. And I don’t care how old you are. It’s still fun. I mean, look at all those fireworks—it’s just enticing enough to a child to make them freak their folks out by begging for it in line at the grocery store.
Just don’t mix them with soda because, of course, your stomach will explode.
18. Oh Henry!
While it’s downright impossible to find an Oh Henry! these days, it sports one of the most memorable all-type wrappers in candy history. Perhaps the greatest iteration of it is from the 80s, where they fattened the letters somewhat and upturned the “e,” leaving a bright yellow wrapper with red and brown coloring on the “oh” and “Henry,” respectively. It’s super-minimal and just as satisfying as the combination of peanuts, caramel, and fudge.
Fun fact—in the ’80s, Gilbert Gottfried cut a commercial for the mostly forgotten candy bar.
When Norwegians aren’t smashing lutefisk, they’re likely shoveling Krembanan into their pieholes, a chocolate-covered sweet filled with banana cream and, best of all, gel! Anyway, they’ve been using the same machine to produce these curved Norwegian treats since 1957, and the wrapper gets the banana Warhol treatment. What’s not to love?
16. King Choc Nut
So, full disclosure—I’ve never seen a Choc Nut in the wild, but this Phillipino peanut milk chocolate bar with its golden wrapper, serif font, and crown logo gives off serious Wonka feels. Best of all, when you open it up, you’ll find 24 little bars.
15. Pixy Stix
Before Pixie Stix started out as the sugar cocaine that comes in a paper straw, it was a powdered drink mix by the name of Frutola. When the owner of the company found that kids weren’t even bothering to mix the drink with water and were eating it straight out of the packet, they shifted gears and gave the kids what they wanted; pure, loose sugar in a variety of colors. That it comes in a tiny straw is its saving grace. Could you imagine just giving a kid an entire pouch of this stuff?
Oh, yeah, that was Fun Dip. Anywho, the straw is portion control, and you can thank their inventor Sunline for that.
14. Big League Chew
Everyone should watch The Battered Bastards of Baseball, especially if you have a soft spot for the tiny miracle that was baseball in the 70s. But there’s one part, in particular, that might leave you genuinely surprised—it was invented by Portland Mavericks’ pitcher Rob Nelson and the team’s batboy Todd Field (who would go on to direct the Oscar-nominated movies In the Bedroom and Little Children).
Anywho, now wrap your head around the concept of selling kids shredded gum dressed up as chewing tobacco. Did it persuade a whole generation of impressionable children to pack a lip of dip spit? Probably! But you can’t deny Bill Mayer’s illustrations as well as the pouch that stole directly from big tobacco and kept little league dugouts humming for decades.
13. Fun Dip
Sometimes you want your sugar straight from a Pixy straw. Other times, you want a chalk stick that you lick and dip in sweet, sweet powder. You know, because you’re civilized.
Before it was Fun Dip, it was known as Lik-m-Aid, and after they rebranded, they added candy sticks to go along with the single or dual-chambered pouches of pure, unbridled sweet stuff. Later they would up the ante and add a third pouch. While electric colors dominate today’s packaging, in the days of old, they sported playful illustrations along with chonky fonts, a look they need to bring back ASAP.
12. Mazapan de la Rosa
So Mazapan de la Rosa might not look like much to most folks, but it’s the humble design of the marzipan candy disc that makes it an absolute standard. Typically, marzipan gets made with almonds, but this particular candy uses peanuts as the base, and it’s melt in your mouth amazing. After moving away from silver paper, they had packaging featuring three strawberries, but after being nearly sued by another marzipan company that had three cherries on their wrapper, they decided to use an illustration of a rose as their hometown of Guadalajara was referred to as the “city of roses.”
Anywho, no one even knows the name of this obscure three cherry brand, and so beloved was Mazapan de la Rosa, the founders named the factory after it.
11. Reed’s Candy
This one’s for the all grandmas out there with an ancient roll of Reed’s Butterscotch candies at the bottom of their purse. A rolled candy, similar to the Lifesaver, though still individually wrapped, kicked off back in 1893, and the logo looks it. While Reed’s went out of business years ago, the Iconic Candy Company of New York brought them back from the dead, just so we can all have a little taste of boiled candy sentimentality.
10. Ritter Sport
Know what’s overrated? The rectangular chocolate bar. That’s why Ritter Sport and its hip-to-be-square shape still feels like a luminary among the chocolate gods. Founded a little over 100 years ago, it wasn’t until 1932 when co-founder Clara Ritter thought they should develop a square bar that could fit in a sport’s jacket that wouldn’t break, hence the name AND the mini-squares that make up the treat.
So in love with the square, the brand even has a museum dedicated to their favorite shape.
Abba-Zaba and its glorious checkered taxicab packaging is a total smoke show. Ripping into that yellow and black wrapper, you feel like you’re about to encounter the mystery Airhead flavor, but no—it’s vanilla taffy with a peanut butter filling. There’s also a sour apple variety but don’t bother.
Good thing they changed the packaging back in the day because the original iteration was pretty fucking racist, to say the least.
Anyway, Abba-Zaba, you my only friend!
Everyone knows that Toblerone is German for “fancy chocolates.”
As with Ritter Sport, if you want to stand-out on the shelf, you zig when the others zag and Toblerone pretty much stuck to the playbook since 1908 when they released their chocolate bar said to be inspired by one of the highest peaks in the Alps. Or maybe it was a Folies dance routine, but who’s keeping tabs here?
So, how do you package a triangular chocolate bar? Well, in this case, you give it an equally iconic triangular tube that, to this day, sweats luxury and that old-timey European affectation. Still, no one does what Toblerone has, and there’s no need to change the formula. Ever.
Iceland loves licorice like Germans love David Hasselhoff.
But there’s one brand in particular that the country has a soft spot for, and that’s Opal. Debuting in 1946 with an Op Art design by Atli Mar, the concentric circles surround the wordmark, while the colors of the circles indicate the flavors within. Which is, you know, still licorice? It doesn’t matter if it’s minty or salty, or even with a touch of fruit. It still tastes like embalming fluid.
PEZ’s original intention was as a smoking alternative, and the name is a play on the word German word “pffefferminz.” They just took the first, middle, and last letter and jammed them together for those beloved, stackable bricks. Tiny, compact wrappers of tablets aside, the real draw has always been the dispenser itself, debuting in 1948. It wouldn’t be until the 1950’s that they would start putting licensed characters on the head dispensers—the first was Popeye.
Incidentally, I also had a professor in college whose office was decorated wall-to-wall with Pez dispensers, and, for unexplainable reasons, it made me feel weirdly uncomfortable. Nice guy, though!
5. Bazooka Bubblegum
Let’s get this out of the way—the Bazooka redesign back in 2012 was an abomination. They took a perfectly good color palette of red, white, and blue and completely trashed the typography. They even got rid of the comic strips. Now it looks like a generic Wonka product with a slight edge.
Clearly, the folks at Topps must have gotten the message because you can still buy throwback editions of the packaging on Amazon. Either way, it’s an American classic, and just like Coca-Cola or the original cast of Three’s Company, some things shouldn’t change.
4. Hershey’s Kisses
Hershey’s Kisses are so deceptively simple in their execution, and you can’t help but marvel at the little touches. Sure, it’s a teardrop of chocolate wrapped in a square, similar to a few other chocolates on the market when they debuted in 1907. It wouldn’t be until 1921 that they would literally plant their flag inside the chocolate, using a paper plume to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
Also, the hidden candy in the Kisses’ logo is pure genius. Total legend and a perfect stocking stuffer to this day.
When M&M’s launched in 1941, it wasn’t to the delight of children across the US—it was the military. Soldiers received M&M’s in their rations because of the candy coating on the chocolate that kept it from melting. It also came in some pretty nifty looking patterned cardboard tube. Before the decade was over, they would transition to pouches and start printing their m’s on the coating of the candy.
2. Good & Plenty
Good & Plenty is one of the oldest candy brands in the states, launching way back in 1893. As a child, there wasn’t much appealing to me about purple and white licorice pastilles, but now I can’t get enough of how the capsules seemingly rain down across the box. Even older iterations from the 60s use the pink and purple pills, but with a black background (and their mascot Choo Choo Charlie). Good & Plenty has a retro, out-of-time aesthetic that, much like the candy itself, works like gangbusters for a licorice brand.
And, if I’m honest, the whole shebang looks like drugs.
1. Tic Tac
So, why Tic Tac? It’s not like we’ve never seen mints before, whether in tins, wrapped up in a roll, or sitting in a bowl by a host stand at a restaurant.
Well, there are two things in play here. First off, you have the name itself. In 1968, they sold Tic Tac as “Refreshing Mints,” which is a legit terrible nom de plume for a brand. By 1970, they changed the name to Tic Tac because of the sound the mints make when they bang around in their plastic container. This is also nothing but lies. I don’t know anything that makes a “tic” or “tac” sound, but it’s a pretty fabulous name.
Secondly, there’s the living hinge lid. So not only do you get a discreet yet transparent piece of packaging, you only need flick open the top and guzzle a few mints. Also, there’s nothing else on the candy or gum shelf at the grocery counter that looks like a Tic Tac, and when you see those vibrant colors just bouncing around, well, you can’t help but feel a little joy in even your most deadened of limbs.