The Death of a Classic Brand..?

July 14, 2008

The other day, I decide to stop into a Duane Reade and pick up a box of Gobstoppers. I basically needed a sucking candy that I wouldn’t be tempted to bite into… jawbreakers seemed like a logical choice… anyway…

I popped into the Duane Reade at Broadway and Duane Street (the original location, I believe) and found an Indian woman in her 60s stocking the candy aisle. And no Gobstoppers. I felt foolish asking, but I couldn’t believe they didn’t have them. Nerds and Gobstoppers have always been at every drug store as far back as I can remember…

I asked her where the Gobstoppers were. She looked at me, puzzled, and replied in a thick accent. “Stoppers?” She turned to her manager, a Chinese guy about my age with his own thick, native accent. They went back and forth, neither of them knowing what “stoppers” or “Gobstoppers” were.

Now, I bring up the accent/ethnicity thing because, apparently, if they weren’t stocking this candy, these folks just really may not have heard of them. Apparently, these kinds of crappy fruit-flavored candies are only a staple in the diet of American kids..? And perhaps the translation of “gobstopper” in the 70s version of Willy Wonka and Chocolate Factory came out to be another word..? (remember, it was a critical part of that classic movie…)

Anyway, I left there baffled and sugarless.

Along my walk, I passed another Duane Reade (surprise surprise…) and decided to pop in. Maybe that one store just didn’t have them.

Nope. This other Duane Reade didn’t have Gobstoppers either.

My disbelief and confusion suddenly turned to sadness. Had the Willy Wonka company stopped making them? Had the brand suffered so much that no one cared about the Everlasting Gobstopper anymore?

No. I found them at a Shop Rite in NJ. They’re alive and well… although much smaller than I ever remember them being. You used to be able to suck on a Gobstopper and go through 3 or more different color/flavor layers before reaching the core. Now it’s just two.

Growing up, the brand “Gobstopper” wasn’t questioned. If you said “Gobstopper”, people immediately knew what one was. Perhaps in all the kerfuffle of brand extensions and candy trends, the Everlasting Gobstopper lost its way. And now, people don’t know what one is anymore.

Ask someone what a Gobstopper is. I dare you. See what they say.

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