With American culture becoming an open book, unashamed to show every dark corner of itself for all the world to see and to judge — think VMAs, social media and selfies — children’s product package designers seem to have dialed back its once independent bad boy exterior and replaced it, at least in the candy segment, by benign design, a far cry from the pioneer candy makers and candy designers of the early 20th Century.
When I was a kid, we loved candy cigarettes. Sure they sound horrific today, but they were delicious. Yes, we would pretend to smoke them, but according to FatSecret.com, each cigarette was only eight calories and we never lit them.
Chicken Dinner Candy was well before my time, but I’m willing to bet that any one who has studied package design has heard about this Sperry Candy Company’s product (right). It launched back in the late 1920′s, mocking Hoover’s campaign promise of “a chicken in every pot.” Of course, the Chicken Dinner bar had no chicken, it was chocolate with nuts and did well throughout the Great Depression.
Here’s another confection that looked like it probably had a good run in the 50s and 60s - “Lik-m-aid.” To prove my theory, there are still products around today that were slightly more flamboyant in their youth and have changed directions: Reese’s and Snickers. They’ve given up their loose lives in favor of something more sensible.
Product package design for kids, and especially in the candy space, has gotten away from the kitsch or flamboyant graphics that once ruled the space. In fact, as public culture has upped their game on exposing children to more adult images, candy manufacturers’ packaging seems to have quietly become more simple and linear. But, you decide. Tweet me @printmag and tell me what you think.
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As for Snicker and Reese’s, I’ll let you decide if I’m making too much of my theory.