Retro candies we miss

They just don't make candy like they used to, do they? There's something about the candy from our childhood that brings an instant rush of nostalgia. One look at a photo, and you're instantly 8 years old again, on your way to the candy store. (Remember when an 8-year-old could do that?)

For kids of the '80s and '90s, the love of old school candy runs so deep that it's actually been memorialized in our minds, to that point the mere mention of something like now-extinct bubble gums and candies elicits sighs and wails of sadness. It's not just about candy, but our entire childhoods. And maybe the time when we could indulge in as much of this sweet stuff as we wanted to without a single worry about about our waistlines.

Here are the candies we miss the most. Some of them have been changed completely, some are available for occasional limited runs, or are at specialty shops only. Others seem to have been completely wiped from the face of the Earth.

Bazooka gum

Bazooka gum was hard as a rock, and the flavor lasted less than a minute, but what else do you buy with the 5 cents in your pocket left over from lunch? It made your jaw ache, but those few seconds of flavor — and the resulting bubbles you could blow — were totally worth it. 

Plus, there was the novelty of the comics inside (and the potential collectibles you could accumulate after a year or so of steady chewing) that made this classic candy a favorite of kids everywhere.

Even though this long-standing gum, which was first sold in the '40s, is still on shelves in some stores, it's virtually unrecognizable. The red, white, and blue packaging has been replaced with pastel colors, and those comics we loved have been gone since 2012. In their place, you'll now find puzzles and brain-teasers, with codes to unlock online video games.

Whistle Pops

There was probably no candy parents hated more than Whistle Pops, the sucker that actually served as a working whistle — at least until you sucked on it for a few minutes. Lucky for adult ears everywhere, the holes closed up and the whistle stopped functioning not long after it hit your tongue. Though the original Whistle Pops were discontinued, Chupa Chups has reintroduced them under the name Melody Whistle Pops. 

Despite their coolness, however, they're nowhere near as widely available as they were once upon a time. Apparently, kids today get more excited about playing music from their phones than they do about making music from their candy.

Cry Baby bubble gum

In the early '90s, there was one surefire way to prove your toughness to your friends — the Cry Baby Challenge. The packaging claimed the extreme sourness of this bubble gum lasted about 40 seconds, but it seemed so much longer than that when it was your cheeks taking the beating. You ruled the playground if you put more than one in your mouth at the same time, but you were quickly dethroned if anyone saw the tears in your eyes.

It's hard to find Cry Baby candy today. Maybe because kids today aren't as tough... or maybe because the parents remember the pain and aren't as apt to buy them for their kiddos. 

Candy Buttons

There was literally nothing satisfying about eating candy buttons. Instead, the fun was in mindlessly peeling the brightly colored sugar dots off the paper. Unfortunately, you usually ate about as much paper as you did candy, but we didn't worry about such things back then.

Candy Buttons by Necco disappeared when the company went out of business in 2018. They were picked up by Doscher's, a company famous for candy canes — though they're trying to give themselves a bit of a face-lift by acquiring different varieties of candies these days. Doscher's is making the Candy Buttons on Necco's old equipment, but they're not as widely available as they once were — and they're nowhere near as cool. 

If you have a craving for these retro candies, your best bet is a specialty shop or vintage candy store.

Jaw Busters

Kids today just don't have the patience for Jaw Busters, which were first sold in 1919. Willy Wonka's Everlasting Gobstoppers had nothing on these candies. 

You didn't chew them. You didn't really suck on them, either. You just kind of held them in your mouth until they disappeared or your cheek went numb — whichever happened first. In fact, the flavor tended to wear off after about five minutes, so you sometimes forgot it was even in there until you started drooling on yourself. (Please tell us we're not the only ones who did that.)

Did anyone ever actually get to the end of one of these everlasting Jaw Buster candies? We sure didn't.

Candy cigarettes

There was just something about walking down the street, "puffing" on a candy cigarette, that made you feel unmistakably cool as a kid. Back then, it was no big deal to buy one of the two kinds of candy cigarettes at the drug store counter — one was pink bubble gum wrapped in paper, and the other a hard, chalky candy — both of which gave you the ability to blow white "smoke" for a second or two. Often, these were lined up on the counter next to bubble gum cigars and shredded gum made to look like chewing tobacco. All designed to make you feel like a grown-up as you worked on your daily sugar intake.

Of course, that was back before the big anti-smoking pushes, and before studies began to come out linking candy cigarettes to smoking as an adult. Although plans to ban the candy cigarettes in the U.S. were never accomplished, the stigma attached to them did cause their sales to decline rapidly and they were banned in other countries. Today, only a few companies still manufacture the treat, but now under the name of Candy Sticks. More than likely, these are no longer going to young children eager to get in their first puffs — they're more for adults in need of something nostalgic.

Tongue Splashers bubble gum

Every time a child of the '90s saw that well-known paint can on a gas station counter, their mom knew she was in trouble. If they had a dime in their pocket, they were getting one of those pieces of bubble gum. Their mouth, lips, and probably hands would be brightly colored within minutes. And yep, that was the entire point of this candy. Does anyone remember what it tasted like? Was it good? Did it even have a taste?

We're pretty sure parents everywhere rejoiced when these went off the market, but you can still buy something similar today under the name Double Bubble Painterz. It's just not as cool when it doesn't come in a paint can. 

Also, the kids who enjoyed these are the parents these days, and they're not about to deal with that kind of mess. We're guessing that might have something to do with the newer version of this one being less than successful. 

Ouch! bubble gum

What's that? You don't think the idea of chewing on bandages sounds very appetizing? Weird.

To be completely honest, when Ouch! Bubble Gum was popular, it wasn't about the actual chewing of the gum. The taste was nothing special, and some of us may have actually threw away the gum as soon as it was opened. No, it wasn't the gum that was wanted, it was the package it came in.

Those awesome awesome tin cases were used to store everything from change, to rocks, to actual bandages — and sometimes even for bubble gum that actually tasted good. The kids of the '80s and '90s totally coveted this gum just for the box it came in. Hubba Bubba still makes Ouch! bubble gum, but the tin case is gone, rendering it completely useless in the minds of many. Now you're just chewing on a bandage because... yum?

Laffy Taffy Sparkle Cherry

If you ask a child of the '90s what the best flavor of Laffy Taffy is, there's no question they'll tell you Sparkle Cherry. Something about that crunch of the glitter sprinkles and the sweetness of the stretchy taffy made this a delightfully satisfying treat. 

Unfortunately, it's not very easy to find in brick-and-mortar stores these days, but you can order it in bulk online if you get a major craving. According to the reviews, it's just like you remember — right down to the impossible to remove wrapper. However, it's no longer just 15 cents for each piece. These days, you expect to pay around $2 for each stick of Sparkle Cherry Laffy Taffy. Nostalgia ain't cheap. 

Hubba Bubba Bubble Jug

This strange, crystal powder that turned into gum when you chewed was so short-lived, there is only a small group of people who actually remember it. Anyone who tried it, though, can tell it was just as delicious as it was strange — as long as you didn't inhale before it had completed the transition from powder to gum. They can probably also tell you that, yes, it was possible to chew an entire jug at once.

Today, you can buy something similar called Sneaky Stardust, but we know a lame copycat when we see one. Maybe if we all join the Bring Back Hubba Bubba Jug Facebook group, or sign the Change.org petition, we'll see it hit the shelves again. Until then, though, we'll have to make so with our memories. 

Runts

Yes, Runts are still widely sold in stores, but the Runts sold in stores today are nothing like the Runts of our childhoods. They're still in the cute, fruit shapes we remember, but the less-observant Runts fan might not notice that the shapes and flavors aren't all the same. The original Runts came in orange, cherry, banana, strawberry, and lime. Throughout the years, they've added and removed different flavors, and today they also include apple and grape, with lime no longer an available flavor.

Of course, you may luck out and find the original flavors in a dusty old quarter candy machine somewhere. But do you really want to risk it. (We might.)

Peanut Butter Oompas

Love M&Ms? Love the peanut butter M&Ms? If the answer is "Yes!" (and let's be honest, there's no one who's passing up any of these babies), then you'll be either seriously sad to be reminded of these delicious Willy Wonka candies or — for the younger generation — you'll wish you'd had the chance to try them.

Peanut Butter Oompas were basically giant nuggets of half peanut butter, half chocolate, covered with a candy coating. According to Collecting Candy, they weren't just any regular old candy, either — they were one of two candies that launched the Willy Wonka line of products. (The other was Super Skrunch, a chocolate and peanut butter bar.) They hit the shelves in 1971, and cost a mere 10 cents. Ah, the good ol' days!

Oompas were popular for a long time (and in 1980, they even came out with a strawberry version). They were discontinued in 1982, though, and even though there are still candies out there called Oompas, they're nothing like the originals. Unfortunately.

PB Max

Even if you haven't thought of PB Max in decades, you're thinking of them now, aren't you? And you're also wishing you could take a bite into this absolutely amazing candy bar, with all that salty peanut butter, crispy, crunchy cookie bits, and chocolate coating.

They were only around for a few years — they debuted in 1989 and disappeared in 1990, according to Gone but Not Forgotten Groceries. Sure, the commercials were vaguely annoying, but we were willing to forgive for this delicious treat.

So, what happened? Some say the family behind parent company Mars had something against peanut butter, so they pulled the product — even though it was wildly successful, and netted somewhere around $50 million in sales in just a short time. The rumor hasn't been substantiated, but considering it's attributed to one-time Mars exec Alfred Poe... it could be true. They could have at least let the rest of us continue enjoying it!

Garbage Can-dy

Never before has marketing been so honest as it was with Garbage Can-dy. Remember these? They came in little plastic garbage cans, and when you popped the top, you found hard-but-somehow-powdery, tart-but-sweet candy in shapes like bottles, shoes, and fish bones. You can still get them from Canada (via Candy Funhouse), but according to Candy Addict, they're not the same as the original.

The original candy came from Topps, and perhaps unsurprisingly, it was the brainchild of the same person responsible for Garbage Pail Kids. There definitely seemed to be a theme, and while it's unclear whether he was counting on the fact that kids like weird, gross things to play with or he was creating a clever bit of satire by making a nutritionally pointless food into actual garbage, we're not sure... but we do miss those little garbage cans. They were handy for some post-indulgence toy storage, and while we might be more likely to keep paper clips in them today, they were still undeniably neat.

Astro Pops

Astro Pops had it all: they were sweet, sugary, lasted forever, and — when you're a kid, at least — they were as big as your head. And what kid doesn't love space?

You might not have known this when you were little, but Astro Pops had some serious space cred. According to Astro Pop Candy, they were invented in 1963 by some actual, legit, rocket scientists who quit their day job at Rocketdyne and decided to make candy for a living. They created special equipment to make the multi-colored, rocket-shaped pop, and while there's no record about what their parents said when they were informed of this career change, we like to think they were at least a little jealous.

The timing was perfect: the Space Race was on, after all, and every kid was looking to the stars. They were around for a long time, too, with a variety of different colors and flavors kicking off in 1987, after they were bought by Spangler Candy. They were discontinued in 2004, and there's some good news here. A longtime Astro Pop fan just happened to be the CEO of Leaf Brands, who negotiated the purchase of the rights to the candy in 2010. After rebuilding all the specialty equipment needed for manufacture, they started rolling off the line again. You can find them in specialty candy shops now, and fingers crossed they'll be more widely available someday.

Space Dust

You're familiar with Pop Rocks, right? It's the candy that was fun as a kid and hurts your teeth as an adult, and that's actually one of the ways you know you're now officially a grown-up. Pop Rocks hit the shelves in 1976, and they were so popular that General Foods released a spin-off candy called Space Dust.

It, unfortunately, wasn't as popular. It was essentially a powdery (and dare we say, more adult-friendly?) version of Pop Rocks, but the combination of a distinctly drug-like appearance and a name similar to Angel Dust meant that parents weren't fans of it. Space Dust was renamed Cosmic Candy, but when the creator needs to take out a full-page advertisement saying that yes, it really is safe and there's nothing to worry about, well, the writing's on the wall. 

The hype made it super popular for a while, but the whole thing just sort of fizzled out. Here's a fascinating footnote, though: there's a good reason for the space theme. According to the Smithsonian, Pop Rocks creator William Mitchell also invented Tang... much to the chagrin of U.S. astronauts forced to drink the weird, weird orange stuff.

Bonkers Fruit Candy

Bonkers were everything that candy should be, including fun. If you're old enough to remember Saturday morning cartoons, you'll probably remember those commercials with the boring-looking people who eat a piece of Bonkers Candy, then get hit with a giant piece of fruit... much to their amusement. We don't get it either, but it undoubtedly made an impression. The soft, vanilla-and-fruit chews were hugely popular in the 1980s and 1990s, until even they were hit with the discontinued stick. 

Fans were devastated, and there's good news. This can't just be all doom and gloom, a walk down memory lane with no hope of reliving your youth! In 2018, LEAF Brands announced they were almost ready to bring this old classic back to the market. They not only purchased the rights to the candy, but found the original inventor for some inside info only people in the know would... well, know. They dipped back into the old formulas, took a crack at redesigning the machinery specially made to churn out Bonkers, and hopefully, you'll eventually be able to find them on shelves once again. Yay!