Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tradition! Nostalgia! Cracker Barrel!

I swear I have the greatest job in the world!! Today I got to give my "Motivation by Chocolate" seminar for a group of 35 employees of the Town of Holly Springs, NC. We had a great time! It's always a blast to speak for people who genuinely like each other and enjoy their jobs. And, hey, I got to talk about chocolate!! The session is fun because the attendees get to interact with each other, learn great ways to stay motivated AND do a chocolate tasting. Training just doesn't get any better than that.

My good friend (and loyal blog reader) Diane Fain-Worthen (she of the cool red scarf and chocolates from out in the Western part of NC) has struck again! This time she sent me the following pictures:

She took these pictures at a Cracker Barrel. Well, I just thought she had some random cool Cracker Barrel out in her part of the state, but heck, no, my Cracker Barrel had this stuff too! And I cleaned up! They have cute mugs and plates and t-shirts and candles and body treatment stuff - it was SWEET!!!! If you like chocolate enough to decorate your house with it and slather it all over your body, you have to get yourself to a Cracker Barrel! You'll notice in my updated blog photo I am holding the giant Hershey bar. What a great prop!

Cracker Barrel also has a pretty darn good candy selection, especially of that nostalgic, old timey candy you can't find anywhere else. I always find something new I want to try:

I'd never even heard of Walnettos (although I would have totally called them Walnuttos - I mean, come on!). These are caramel loaded with walnuts. If you like walnuts, you'll like these. They were good. Not great, but good. If you really like walnuts, they might move up to great. I actually think these might benefit from a chocolate coating.

But what's really interesting is the history of the rather bizarre Walnetto (from the company website):

Walnettos were introduced to the United States in 1919 by the J. N. Collins Company of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Walnettos were a big hit from the very beginning! They became one of the top candies purchased at movie theaters throughout the United States. People from that era associated the rich, distinctive, walnut caramel taste of Walnettos with classic movies such as “Our Gang Comedies” and the Saturday Matinee Serials featuring Charlie Chaplin and The Three Stooges. Walnettos are back and better than ever. The candies were recently voted the favorite candy by US Soldiers!

(Holy cow - that is reaching back in time!)

Walnettos was one of the top ten best selling candies in the United States through World War II. After which, the company was bought by Peter Paul Inc., the makers of Mounds (trademark) and Almond Joy (trademark). During this time, Walnettos was featured regularly on the hit, comedy program, “Laugh-In”. Arte Johnson’s character used Walnettos to try to pick up Ruth Buzzi’s character on the park bench with the line, “Want a Walnetto?”. This further increased the fame and success of an already popular item.

(OMG - I am totally old - I can remember my parents watching Laugh-In! But we didn't have any Walnettos. I think I was abused as a child.)

In the 1960’s Walnettos was purchased by Cadbury USA. Cadbury, a company dealing with primarily chocolate confections, retired the line in order to focus solely on their chocolate business. It remained dormant until 1984, when an experienced candy marketer and budding entrepreneur, Sandy Licht, decided to bring back this nostalgic favorite.
Now Walnettos are back and better than ever!

Hee, hee - you gotta laugh at the Walnettos company telling us that Cadbury is a company dealing with primarily chocolate confections. Like Walnettos are the big dogs.

Hmmmm......the soldier thing seems to be true - at least according to the website. And somehow when compared with Twizzlers and Junior Mints, I can't imagine eating Walnettos at the movies. But it is a pretty cool history and you know how I want all these little candy makers to hang on!! I think the history of our candy is the history of our nation, and I don't want to lose it!! (Can you hear "God Bless America" playing in the background?)

I do have one piece of advice for the Walnetto people. Get a less lame mascot. I mean, come ON! You blew Walnutto, at least get a better mascot. Uh - maybe a squirrel? Maybe even a walnut? But just a square of the candy with some seriously bad shoes? Sandy, Sandy - you can do better.

Here's another little treat I found:

I had heard from several sources that chocolate covered gummies were good. I saw this adorable box and threw it on my Cracker Barrel pile. (Hey, if you all aren't going to start spending and help me I'm going to have to lead the economic recovery alone! Did you at least buy some on sale Valentine's candy?)

Well, low and behold, the Sweet Candy Company is another small US Candy Company. Check this out:

In 1892 Leon Sweet started the Sweet Candy Company in Portland, Oregon. In the beginning, Sweet’s manufactured just a few varieties of candy. However, the candy that Leon offered for sale had two distinguishing characteristics: the candy was mostly made by hand, and folks loved it. They loved it because of the quality.

In 1900 Leon moved the operation from Portland to Salt Lake City, Utah, where he merged several small specialty stores into one general line manufacturing company. Over the years, Sweet’s has become more innovative and more automated. The company has increased the number of products it makes and has expanded its total marketing area. Today, there are more than 250 Sweet’s Quality Candy items distributed internationally in bulk, bags and boxes. Sweet’s is perhaps still best known for its classic favorites: Chocolate Orange Sticks, Salt Water Taffy and Cinnamon Bears.

Well, I'll be. (Hang out in Cracker Barrel long enough and you'll start talking like this.)

The Chocolate Cinnamon Bears were interesting. I have to say I like the cute box more than the candy. The bears were chewy and fresh, but there was something about the cinnamon that WAY over powered the chocolate. I didn't like these much at all - way too cinnamony.

I also have to say that neither of these was cheap. 13 bears were $4.99 22 Walnettos also $4.99. I guess nostalgia is expensive. Probably Cracker Barrel is just making a killing selling candy to all those captive hungry people. I say - "You go, Cracker Barrel! Shake that money maker! Work it!!"

I need to go sit down in one of those rocking chairs for a while. The sugar rush is making me a little wild.


KiddoKare1 said...

Oh my gosh! I love Cracker Barrel! It's a darn good thing that the closest one to me is almost 2 hours away. Because now I wanna go! LOL

Carl Weaver said...

Cracker Barrel has some stuff that is hard to find elsewhere, for good and bad. Their candy is really a treat because it's old-time type stuff and makes me think of times when things were simpler, whatever the heck that means. It's a fun little store to browse while waiting for your name to be called. "Big Daddy, party of two, your table is ready." You can see I make them call me by my real name.

Did you buy the whole collection of ceramic lighthouses as well?

Denise Ryan said...

Ha, ha, Carl - I mean Big Daddy - I haven't given in to the lighthouses yet. But if they keep this chocolate thing up, I may be in trouble!!

Denise Ryan said...

KiddoKare - you are right - I can only shop there. If I eat there I want to eat biscuits until I explode!!

KiddoKare1 said...

Denise, we ate there on Thanksgiving last year. We went to see our oldest daughter and rather than try and cook in her apartment or have her cook... (her offer for us was chicken pot pies and Ramen noodles. HA!) we chose to eat out. Cracker Barrel was open and the food was awesome. Yeah. Like I said. Good thing I don't live near one. LOL.