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The snack that was a low-key scam
The rise and fall of Kudos bars
It’s Discontinued Snacks Week! There were some excellent suggestions on Twitter and in the discussion thread a few days ago, and it’s clear there are plenty of long-gone snacks to feature. We’ll do three this week and save some for another time. (Also, it turns out some discontinued snacks have made a return, including Dunkaroos, although, as my wife points out, they’re no longer shaped like kangaroos, meaning they really should be called, what, “Dunks”? Not the same.)
Manufacturer photo / Snack Stack illustration
So you start with a granola bar. Rolled oats, all that good stuff. And then you add M&Ms or Dove chocolate or Snickers ingredients. And then put a thick layer of chocolate at the bottom or maybe another squiggle chocolate on top, why not, or just cover the whole thing in chocolate.
Find it in
The USA, from 1986 until 2017. No longer made.
If you want to make an American millennial—especially the older ones, like me—nostalgic, there are a few easy ways to do it. Bring up the video game Oregon Trail, for example, or the Back to the Future movies, or the pre-2008 prospect of financial optimism (too much?). Or mention Kudos, the snack that felt like a low-key scam that kids pulled on adults. Here was a granola bar, HEALTH FOOD, that was actually a candy bar, JUNK FOOD. To eat it was to get away with something. I mean, look at these things:
“Kudos is an example of what I consider to be more candy than granola,” a writer for the periodical Snack Food opined in 1987. At the time, granola and its cousin, muesli, were just coming off a brief but major cultural moment, going from $280 million in sales in 1982 to $439 million in 1985, and back down to $350 million a year later.
Snack Food devoted much of an an issue to granola in all its forms, starting with a discussion of the health-food origins of muesli (developed in 1895 by Dr. Maximilian Bircher-Benner, two years before he opened a sanatorium called “Vital Force”). When it came to the movement to “candy-ize,” granola, a trend Quaker started in 1983 with Granola Dipps, “the first chocolate-enrobed granola bar,” Snack Food’s reporting took on a noticeably annoyed tone, describing Kudos as “covered (once again) with (surprise!) ‘real chocolate.’ … Yet another variation on the ‘wholesome’ theme.”
For Quaker, Granola Dipps were a new way to think about granola; Kudos, on the other hand, was an expansion of the candy lines of M&M/Mars, which was losing market share to Hershey. In the first year after launch, sales “were reportedly 90% above expectations.” It hit the sweet spot—exceptionally sweet, with tons of chocolate—of an ostensible health food that had been entirely overhauled for the MTV decade. Kudos was the perfect snack to sell to onetime hippies, some of whom were now definitively yuppies, and for them to feed their kids.
Kudos had a good run, but it came to an end around 2017, the demise confirmed in a Facebook post. The reasons weren’t entirely clear, but my guess is that Kudos had simply run its generational course. A hippie food had been rebooted to be more like candy, but when the kids who ate it grew up, they realized maybe they didn’t want their “health” food to be overtly candy-like—the low-key scam had run its course, overtaken by the new energy bar sector, which is currently growing quite well. (I’ll leave it to the dieticians to discuss whether or not the current crop of energy bars are actually more healthful, but they’re clearly marketed that way.)
Anyway, please enjoy this 1980s Kudos ad, featuring a real Randy Newman-evoking song, incredibly of-the-decade outfits (the “cool” sunglasses at 29 seconds in) and, as a bonus, the last few seconds of an Ishtar preview at the beginning. So rad!
Get it here
No longer available, unless you can time-travel with the assistance of some guy named Doc. Amazon still has a Kudos product page, although there is a note that they’re “currently unavailable,” which is an understatement. Also, you can purchase a dollhouse miniature replica of a Kudos box on Ebay for a mere $2.37.
Pair it with
A Hi-C Ecto Cooler juice box
Will you like it?
Delish: “The Long-Lost Kudos Bar Is The Most Upsetting Loss Of Our Generation” (I, uh, have some quibbles with that headline but that’s a whole different issue.)
If you liked this, please share it! And don’t forget to check out the check out the pantry (er, archives) here. Happy snacking!