What's utterly tasteless and has kids foaming at the mouth?

July 22, 1993|By Nicole Brodeur | Nicole Brodeur,Orange County Register

See those little bags of Gummy Bears sitting on the shelves?

Aren't they cute? Aren't they sweet? Aren't they just so nice and gummy?

Kids would buy them by the kilo if they came without heads. If they tasted like Tabasco sauce or were sold as arms and legs. Call them Grungy Bears, and kids would pack them in their cheeks.

These days, candy has to be gross to be good.

"I like the Tongue Splasher gum," says Brayden Todd, at 13 in the prime of his candy-consumption years. "It turns your whole mouth different colors, so you're spitting pure green or pure red all over the place."

When they aren't engaged in that pastime, Brayden and his friends are happily feasting on a gloopy, gloppy creation that runs from a hole in a plastic nose.

Officially, it's known as Super Nauseating Obnoxious Treat. To kids, it's just called by its acronym.

And it is at the forefront of a new wave in candy production that has kids foaming at the mouth, brandishing blue teeth, biting the heads off licorice rats and chomping into gumballs that taste like hair remover.

"It's the biggest craze I have ever seen," says Mark De Nigris, owner of a deli and candy store in Anaheim, Calif. "The more bizarre, the more gross it is, the more kids want it. I was raised on the sweet stuff, and when I see people buy this stuff . . . I am constantly shocked."

For a while there, it looked as though candy was always going to be gummy. Then three years ago, everything from gumballs to licorice went sour.

And now? Candy-makers are outright daring kids to eat their stuff -- and the kids are answering the call.

"That's the best part," Brayden says. "Everybody wants to try it because it's disgusting. It's a natural high.

"Kids are just addicted to it."

Leaf Candies has put out Busted, a package of 10 gumballs that challenges kids to a game of oral roulette.

"Warning!" a baseball-hatted bully sneers on the front of the package. "Three gumballs are way hot! And I double dog dare ya to find out which three! Good luck sucker!"

There also is something called Mad Dawg gum, a "Super Spewing Chew" that, with just a few bites, produces a pastel-neon foam that even the biggest mouths can't contain.

"I love those things," says Dean Tutak, 13, of Anaheim. "You have to swallow it or spit it out. People see you eat it and they completely freak."

Parents, though, just can't relate to the phenomenon. They remember sourballs and even bought their share of candy cigarettes. But the gross stuff?

"I think it's a marketing gimmick," says Al Tutak, Dean's father. "The makers are trying to get something across that nobody's done yet -- and for no other reason but to be gross.

"I can remember gag gum that turned your mouth black. But now they're doing it on purpose?"

He's speaking of Tongue Splashers, a mouth-coloring bubble gum that comes in colors like "slime green" and "slurpin' purple." The color lasts for less than a minute.

Kevin Sherman, president of Sherman's Confections Inc. in Covina, Calif., says kids are bored with "mainstream" candy. They want something wild, he says, that will make their parents cringe and their siblings chase them out of the house.

"Gross candy just stands out," Mr.Sherman says. "It's like the rubber barf, the Whoopie Cushion and the rubber doggie-doo. It's a way to get away from reality."

Mr. Sherman is a creator of Super Nauseating Obnoxious Treat.

Explains Mr. Sherman: "When I got into this business, I figured we could package some sort of candy in a nose and get it to drip out. And we did it. It's perfect.

"The main thing is, the taste is absolutely phenomenal. Have you tasted it? If it came out of a toothpaste tube, you'd love it."

And then there are the Brothers of Invention, Steve and Sterling Corri, former candy-factory forklift drivers who now produce "The Original Sourer Soda."

The brightly colored beverages come in three flavors: Atomic Green Tangerine, Wild Blue Cherry and Mega Melon. Each flavor is "endorsed" by a colorful cartoon character who offers kids advice from the side of the soda label: "What you can't do now is the reason you keep trying" or "Don't cry about what you don't have; laugh about what you've got."

One of the brothers agreed to talk about the soda, but only in character -- in this case, Rodney Sour, who appears on the Mega Melon soda label.

"Kids want to freak each other out and they want to freak themselves out, so gross candy and sour soda is a challenge," he says. "It's a challenge to put something in your mouth.

"You're afraid to bite into it," he continues, getting a tad philosophical. "You're terrified. But you bite into it and the faster you chew, the better it gets.

"I think with gross candy, kids learn they have to take the bad to get to the good."

OK. We'll go along with that. But what about the soda?

"We're coming out with a Funky Black Cola," he says excitedly. "It's really black, black, black. We're experimenting with a flavor, but it will definitely turn your mouth black."

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