In England they have Jaffa Cakes. In Norway, they have Smash!, which resemble chocolate-covered Bugles. In Thailand they have Smiling Fish Brand Crispy Baby Clam Snack (it’s exactly what it sounds like). In Holland they have triple-salted liquorice.
Everyone in the world snacks, and every country has its own unique collection of the appetizing, the portable, the finger-licking, and the impossible-to-eat-just-one. And, just like every other country, Canada has its own snack foods it likes to call its own. Sure, our stuff may be available in other places—but they all have a uniquely Canadian flavour.
“Cause when you’ve got the Munchies…” If you completed that jingle in your head, you probably remember the 1980s and early 90s, when Hostess Potato Chips were the best-selling brand in Canada. (Sour cream and bacon chips, anyone?) Hostess, which managed to survive a disastrous misstep when it released orange-, grape- and cherry-flavoured chips in the late 1970s, is pretty much a thing of the past now—the brand became Lay’s in 1996. The only thing left with the Hostess name on it is those addictively smoky, salty Hickory Sticks. For the truly nostalgic, check out this collection of retro-cool Hostess commercials.
Giving Canadians odd-smelling breath and odder-looking fingers for a generation, ketchup chips are credited with being a Hostess Potato Chip invention, sold only for the Canadian market. Actually, the origin of ketchup chips is the topic of some controversy, since a company in Pennsylvania has also been making ketchup-flavoured chips since the early 1980s. Whatever their birthplace, ketchup chips are largely absent from shelves south of the border (although they are available in other places throughout the world) and are generally considered a quintessential Canadian snack.
How do you like your coffee? Coffee Crisp was actually born in the UK in the 1930s as a chocolate-covered wafer bar and introduced to Canada as Biscrisp, but its current coffee-flavoured incarnation—reportedly a combination of Aero’s bubbly chocolate and Biscrisp’s wafers, plus coffee—is a Canadian development. Following a petition by disgruntled Americans in 2006, Nestle introduced the bar to the American market, then discontinued its efforts in 2009. Our neighbours to the south will just have to like their coffee … with cream and sugar.
Flakies, Jos. Louis, May Wests: these Canadian takes on American snack cakes like Twinkies and Hostess Pies have long been a Canadian-only thing—until recently. With Hostess—the maker of Twinkies—now bankrupt, Vachon pastries are starting to make inroads into the American market. Will American consumers abandon their now unrequited love for spongy yellow cake and cream filling for the jammy indulgence of a Passion Flakie? Time will tell.
If you’ve travelled, what snacks did you miss while you were away from home? What snacky item says “Canada” to you?