I latched on to a pack of LifeSaver candies recently, which took me back to a story I first learned about in Bruce Tinsley’s comic strip “Mallard Fillmore” back in 2003.
Tinsley’s duck reporter announced that LifeSavers five-roll pack – unchanged in 70 years – had new flavors. Evidently, sweet-tooth voters had cast their ballots in a marketing contest. Lemon, lime and orange were removed from the striped wrapper, and the candy maker replaced them with a more hip collection of cherry, raspberry, watermelon, blackberry and pineapple. (FYI: Orange was later reintroduced.)
At the time, Mallard’s strip reminded me of one of my favorite columns by my predecessor, Laurie Quade, and which continues to give me a chuckle to this day. In it, she wrote about green and yellow jellybeans. As I recall, Laurie claimed lemon and lime were basically a waste in any bag of beans, cache of candy, or sack of suckers. When I read the article, I shouted “Amen, Sister!”
A person needs only look at the bottom of the bag, the leftovers in the bowl and the candy spit out in the garbage to see Laurie’s point. Those Florida citrus flavors simply couldn’t measure up to the likes of tropical punch or pina colada.
Don’t get me wrong; I mean no offense to those growers of oranges, lemons and limes. I just prefer to enjoy them up close and personal in their natural habitat, the produce aisle, rather than in a contrived confection of corn syrup and sugar.
By the way, it’s not true that a man invented LifeSavers because he lost a child to asphyxiation. Rumor had it that he deliberately created the candy with a hole in the middle, allowing air to get through should a child accidentally swallow it. Consequently, the name LifeSavers took on a rather heroic connotation. Nonetheless, that story is yet another urban legend.
The truth is: Clarence Crane invented the candy in 1912 for a simple reason: Summer is slack time for chocolate sales, what with melting, stickiness and all. He used a pill-making machine to create peppermints, and then punched a hole in the middle to distinguish them from medicine.
The white circles looked exactly like the lifesavers on boats, and Crane priced them at a nickel per roll. He called them “Crane’s Peppermint Life Savers for that Stormy Breath.” One of Crane’s most popular markets was the assortment of saloons in the area. Patrons could chew a peppermint LifeSaver instead of free cloves usually provided to mask one’s imbibing breath.
In 2003, the last LifeSaver made in the U.S. rolled off the assembly line. The sugar industry chastised the company for its move to Canada where sugar prices were cheaper. Kraft (which owned the company at the time) defended the move, saying it would save something like $26 million in moving its operation to Canada – over half that in sugar costs. The Holland, Mich., community, where the factory had been since 1967, lost more than 600 jobs due to the factory’s closure, leaving the city’s residents quite upset.
I’ll bet you didn’t know that a story about LifeSavers would have international incident written all over it.
Neither did I.
I was just curious about flavors.