Thursday, January 6, 2011


When I started to travel regularly to Canada in the 1970’s and 80’s I discovered a great Country and People and all those impressive and unique elements that make Canada, Canada. My then employer Equifax had a partnership with AT&T and Bell Canada and I was charged with the development and administration of a training program called Phone Power (PP). PP was an English/French training curriculum that was loosely based on the old Xerox Learning Systems Professional Selling Skills (PSS) training program. It was designed to allow Equifax employees to maximize their ability to engage and gather pertinent, relevant business information from consumers via telephone (if we only knew then the technology that would be ultimately available). We administered this very successful program throughout the United States and eastern Canada from Ottawa to the Maritimes.

Hockey as well as my activities within the American and Canadian Scottish Communities accounted for much of my other travel mostly including trips to Toronto, Ontario and Halifax, Nova Scotia. I also made a few trips into Quebec mostly Montreal with some detours to the Laurentians and that area around and including Mont Tremblant. I made Friends with the Dubois Family who operated the always superb and hospitable Villa Bellevue for seventy nine years until 1991. Point is I traveled to Canada with some regularity during that period.

There are a lot of great aspects to this country and probably the least of which is Nestle Smarties. That revelation alone might put Canada in the upper echelon of the world community - if not at the top. Last year Might of Right did a couple of posts about Canada with one acidic, foaming-at-the-mouth Canadian respondent who obviously and fervently felt that anything worthwhile in the history of Man was invented by a Canadian - declared in most unflattering terms that I didn’t even know what Smarties were – obviously from his perspective an attempt at what he perceived as the ultimate and most visceral, disgraceful backhanded insult he could offer. Indeed, even in the 1970’s I already had a wonderfully intimate relationship with this confection and hope to do so for the rest of my days, of course, all within the limits of my diet (Nestle also owns Jenny Craig). Canadian Smarties, then, are mostly the focus of this post.

We Americans cannot easily purchase Nestle Smarties (except by a specialist importer like The Sweet Life of New York City or on E-Bay) in any of our 50 states as they are unique to Canada (location of their largest manufacturing facility), the United Kingdom, South Africa, Austria, France, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Germany where another large manufacturing facility is located in Hamburg. Smarties remain popular in other European countries.

Caution: There is another Smarties candy manufactured and marketed since 1949 in the United States by Ce De Candy. They also manufacture this product in Canada where it is marketed as Rockets. US Smarties bear no resemblance to Canadian Smarties. The US version is an artificially fruit flavored tablet (some sour versions exist) that I mostly see around Halloween as it’s cheap, well packaged and easy to distribute. If we are to believe recent stories in the US media it appears that a few always industrious though obsessed American kids have figured out a way to snort or “smoke” the candy though most just simulate smoking a cigarette mimicking a smoker's exhale.

Maybe there isn’t even a risk of a sugar high though some physicians are now concerned that this may be a harbinger to trying tobacco cigarettes or at the very least increased risk for lung infections. In response to this abuse some US middle schools have now banned the candy. You Tube has removed some “how to” videos created by kids for kids but many more remain at that site (I’ve seen them). This all appears to be a really, really stupid fad. Nuff said.

Well, all that falderal can’t happen with our Canadian Smarties. They are thick, crisp, sugar coated flavorful creamy milk chocolate nuggets that really have no equal. Main competitor M&Ms (I like them too!) were developed in the United States in 1941 as a cheap alternative to Smarties. Despite the onslaught Smarties remain a far superior confection. Smarties appear slightly larger and definitely have a much thicker candy shell that gives more texture and “crunch”, a distinctly pleasant flavor and are not prone to melting like M&Ms do in our hot Texas sun. Well, not as badly…

Smarties or a reasonable facsimile of the candy have been manufactured far longer, since 1882, originally by H.I Rowntree & Co in York, England (later Rowntree Mackintosh - Aye!) as “Chocolate Beans” though changed the name to Smarties Chocolate Beans in 1937 and further shortened to Smarties in 1977. In 1988 Nestle acquired Rowntree Mackintosh and five years later changed the name of these candies to Nestle Smarties. Smarties continue to grow in popularity and appear to be headed towards a total global success.

Smarties come in eight colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink and brown. Most popular colors include blue and orange while red is also near the top and featured in the Smarties jingle. Red has proved invaluable over the years especially as a source of lip coloring for young Canadian girls too scared or intimidated to buy lipstick. While many styles and sizes have come and gone over the years the standard Smartie (ordinaire) remains consistent and without peer. I remember to my great surprise my first orange-colored Smartie which was filled with orange-flavored milk chocolate (an apparent runaway from the UK version). By the way, for all you naysayers the purple Smartie is now colored with red cabbage, not a dye derived from a crushed female bug…

The 1970s through the mid-1990s saw a popular and now iconic jingle/rhyme as follows,

"When you eat your Smarties, do you eat the red ones last?
Do you suck them very slowly, or crunch them very fast?
Eat those candy-coated chocolates, but tell me when I ask,
When you eat your Smarties, do you eat the red ones last?"

There are several other similar, popular versions of this jingle with many Canadians knowing the rhymes by heart. Good Canadian Friends celebrating my superb 2010 Christmas gift of a Smarties counter top display that contained 48 boxes of this glorious product prompted them to break out in song singing the jingle to the tune of Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor on The Bedpost Over Night? Most young people remember Everyday People as their song of choice… and that surely seems to be whose consuming these candies - folks like you and I. Thank you – Andy, Andrea and Harper for your very generous and thoughtful Christmas gift.

I found it refreshing and an incredibly intelligent marketing decision when in 1997 London, England publishers Bloomsbury in an attempt to reach as many people as possible slipped scrolls of chapters of a little known Scottish writers first book Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone into tubes of Smarties. Now everybody knows JK Rowling and the Harry Potter novels. It was a good start… Indeed, Philosopher’s Stone won the Nestlé Smarties Book Prize gold medal in the 9 to 11 year-olds category. Most folks in the publishing industry agree that the Smarties award, which is voted for by children, allowed for the novel’s and the movie series meteoric rise.

Irish actor Colin Farrell has fond memories of Smarties, admitting in a recent interview that his first big romantic crush was on the already long departed Marilyn Monroe. To that end a prepubescent Farrell would leave some of his precious Smarties under his pillow along with a note inviting Marilyn to come down from Heaven to share them and, presumably, his bed with him. Better than a carrot on a stick. Wish I‘d thought of that

Smarties remain my candy and indulgence of choice and that of Friend Peter Goodspeed with whom I will surely gift several more boxes. Now for that all important question, “Do I save the red ones for last?” Absolutely not as I generally consume all without prejudice or favoritism though I do often celebrate the May 2010 return of the blue Smarties (though only introduced in 1988 and pulled in 2006) noting that I never suffered from any rashes or untoward symptoms from the supposedly toxic original brilliant blues.

I do reject the premise that the blue Smartie is a, “Canadian National Defense Agency device to prevent the invasion of Americans, monkeys, and pregnant women.” It hasn’t stopped me as Smarties remain another good reason to return to Canada whenever possible and, at least, an excuse to replenish the stash of my favorite candy which I will gladly and willingly accept in box, tube (round or hex, lid or not) or bag.

I have forty-one boxes of Smarties left…


Ned Buxton

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