The Untold Truth Of Rolo

Rolos keep things simple. They deliver bite-sized bliss ten times per package, and it's all thanks to one of the greatest candy combinations ever brought to the tongue: chocolate and caramel. It's hard to name a more iconic duo. Chocolate and peanut butter deserve an honorable mention, and peanut butter and jelly get a tip of the hat. Neither has the same sense of indulgence, though.

If you like both caramel and chocolate, you probably enjoy these candies. Some people can't get over how they stick to your teeth, but that's an enjoyable hazard. What do you know about Rolos, though? They've been around since before the start of World War II, so they must have some stories to share.

Don't let the brown packaging fool you: These unassuming candies have a surprisingly colorful past. You don't need to know their story to open a tube and enjoy a treat, but they may bring a bigger smile to your face once you hear about the antics behind the scenes. There's humor, romance, and even loss. Let's explore the wins, fights, and scandals lurking in the caramel heart of your favorite candy.

An acquisition inspired their creation

This love affair between chocolate and caramel began with a tale of two companies. One specialized in toffee. One specialized in chocolate. You may be confused. Shouldn't we be talking about caramel, not toffee? Isn't toffee the crunchy stuff of Heath bars? The word has changed over the years, and the line between toffee and caramel is sticky. Caramel apples and toffee apples are arguably pretty much the same thing. Then there's the American versus British dialect to consider. It was also a different time.

Adding to the confusion, Mackintosh made unusual toffee by 1800s standards. When the founders, John and Violet Mackintosh, opened their pastry shop in 1890, toffee was a boiled sweet. Their version combined elements and flavors of butterscotch and American caramel for a softer kind of treat. They were wildly successful, and in 1933, they bought A.J. Caley, a chocolate manufacturer.

The candy-making power couple worked well as a team, and with access to lots of chocolate, it was only a matter of time before someone introduced some caramel to mix things up. Just four years after the acquisition of A.J. Caley, the first Rolo appeared on the market. It just goes to show that teamwork makes the dream work.

Their shape has a name

What does a Rolo look like? It's the kind of question kids could debate for hours. They look a lot like the pails children fill with sand at the beach to make sandcastles. Maybe they're little caramel volcanoes. They could be lampshades or flowerpots. Although there are many Rolo-shaped objects to compare them to in the real world, they aren't triangles, cylinders, or any other shape commonly taught in school.

The mystery couldn't last forever. Their weird shape has a name: a conical frustum. All the things we just compared them to are conical frustums, too. Whenever a shape has a circular base that is wider than the circular top and doesn't reach a point like a cone, it counts. Maybe it's bittersweet to make Rolos a little less mysterious, but now you have a new word to show off.

If you're disappointed by the official term for cut-off cones, you can take comfort in the knowledge that Rolo's specific shape is all its own. A true conical frustum has a flat top. The shallow dip at the peak of each candy, and the concentric rings inside, are uniquely Rolo. In the end, there's nothing quite like it.

They aren't sentimental

Rebranding is part of business. Companies periodically review their image in light of current events, styles, and preferences in order to inform adjustments to packaging and marketing strategy. Rolo cited an unusual reason to change their angle, though.

The brand ditched their old slogan — "Do you love anyone enough to give them your last Rolo?" — because it was "too sentimental," according to The Guardian. That might be fair. An animated ad helped launch the old slogan, showcasing a couple demonstrating their love by doing just as the slogan suggests: offering up the last Rolo. In 2015 it topped a poll in the Independent as the "most romantic advert of all time."

Their new slogan — "Discover the power of the last Rolo" — launched with a new commercial. Instead of a tender moment between an animated couple, the live-action ad featured dares and underwear flashing. Although humor had always been part of the brand's marketing strategy, it became the primary focus from that point onward. No matter how you feel about the candy, Rolo is just here for the laughs. 

Rolos pair well with ice cream

If you like Rolo candies, and you like ice cream, you're in for a treat. You're in for a lot of treats, to be honest. You probably already know about a few of the Rolo-based ice cream products available. Maybe you've seen Edy's Rolo ice cream, or you could be a fan of the Rolo brand ice cream cones and sandwiches available at Walmart. But there are more.

Known for introducing great flavors only to take them away, McDonald's offered patrons a Rolo McFlurry in 2012. The special item blessed customers with bits of the candy and a swirl of thick caramel in vanilla soft serve. McDonald's discontinued it the same year but gave the Rolo McFlurry a second, limited run in 2017. Dairy Queen took the reins in the interim with a Rolo Blizzard in 2015. Unfortunately, like the McFlurry before it, the Rolo Blizzard blew off the menu. But that doesn't mean there's no hope. Either treat may come back for a reunion tour.

Even if restaurants aren't selling it just now, you have options. Grab a pint of Rolo ice cream at the corner store (get a full tub if you have to share). What is it about the beautiful union of chocolate and caramel that blends so well with ice cream? It's the kind of frozen treat you hide from the kids, even though you know they'd like it. Maybe Rolo's original slogan was onto something.

They have curious ingredients

Rolo candies are gluten-free, which is good news for anyone with celiac disease or another form of gluten intolerance. However, it shouldn't come as a surprise that candy has lots of unhealthy ingredients, even if you aren't allergic to any of them. That's okay: Candy is supposed to taste good, not replace your salad. Still, it's a good idea to know what you're eating. SmartLabel reports that a small, unassuming Rolo has four kinds of fat and four types of sugar. Since the chocolate coating has its own ingredient list, a few of these ingredients repeat. For instance, sugar is included in both the chocolate and filling (but that's a given).

Rolo takes its corn syrup seriously: Both corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup make the list. Soybean and palm kernel oils hide in every delicious bite, too. The ingredients include lots of things your doctor won't like, but some are so common, you probably have them in your kitchen right now. The gooey center includes both baking soda and salt, so if you love Rolos, it's safe to say you like your caramel salted (though maybe you should try a salted caramel iced coffee just to be sure).

The strangest ingredients are very basic — in fact, they're odd mainly because they're listed as individual ingredients at all. Both the chocolate and caramel filling include nonfat milk. However, the chocolate coating includes milk fat and lactose, the natural sugar found in milk, as separate ingredients, apart from the milk itself. Even funnier is the fact that Rolos list chocolate as an ingredient in their chocolate coating (in case it wasn't obvious).

They're great for holiday baking

You can enjoy Rolos anywhere: the cinema, the beach, or the school yard. Their greatest cultural contribution may be in the kitchen, however. A roll of Rolos is a fun stocking stuffer, but they shine brightest on the holiday cookie tray. There are dozens of recipes for Rolo holiday treats. You can make Rolo-stuffed cookies, Rolo-topped cookies, cookies that look like Rolos, and more.

You might have learned how to make pretzel candies with them from Grandma. Did you know this tradition is so popular, the official Hersheyland website has a recommended recipe? Hersheyland suggests topping the pretzel-Rolo combo with a Cadbury Snowball, but if you don't want any other chocolate competing with Rolo's flavor, two pretzels will do.

The appeal, as with Rolos, is the simplicity. Chocolate and caramel are great on their own, but a bit of crunch and a pinch more salt make them a terrific snack. Because the recipe is so simple, it's easy to make with kids, which may be why the tradition has stuck to the holidays like Rolos stick to your teeth. There's no mixing, measuring, or messing with dough. The hardest part is trying not to eat all the Rolo pretzel candies you made before you go to the holiday party.

American Rolos are different

American Rolos aren't made by the same company as the rest of the world's Rolos. The States have Hershey, they have Nestlé across the pond, and Hershey went to court to keep the British version off American shelves. Rolos are, in fact, quite British. They were introduced in 1937 and have remained a hit; the British variety is still produced in Newcastle, despite the company changing hands over the years. Hershey bought the rights to produce and sell the candy in America in 1969, and it's been a culture war ever since.

Why would that be a problem? Does it matter where your candy comes from? It all boils down to the difference between British and American chocolate. The countries have different legal requirements about how much cocoa, cocoa butter, etc. must be in a piece of chocolate for it to qualify as such. Anything can be chocolate flavored, but industry standards dictate what candy may call itself milk chocolate and what may not.

The two companies that make Rolos actually use slightly different recipes, and Americans who preferred the British version used to buy imported products. Hershey saw this as an infringement on their rights agreement, and now sweet-tooths can't buy a number of British chocolates in America. Rolos joined Cadbury treats like Dairy Milk bars as victims of the skirmish. This means, if you ever travel overseas, you should definitely stop to taste the Rolos. You may be surprised how different the familiar candy is.

There's a Rolo-flavored tea

There is such a thing as Rolo tea, and we think you should know. The decadent conical frustums aren't just a delicious candy: Their flavor also makes a tasty drink. A signature blend from Adagio Tea brings chocolate and caramel together in a cup of their own. How does tea taste like chocolate and caramel, though? The ingredients explain a lot. In addition to a black tea base, the blend features real cocoa nibs and tiny pieces of dark chocolate. Cocoa nibs are a fairly common tea ingredient, but the dark chocolate is a special highlight.

The rest is a little more mysterious. Adagio lists "Natural Caramel Flavor" and "Natural Chocolate Flavor." Just like the candy itself, you don't have to know the full recipe to know you love it. Imagine spicing up your next Pinterest-worthy teatime with a sip of Rolo. It sounds like something out of the Mad Hatter's tea party, or maybe Wonka's. But for once, truth may be tastier than fiction.

Their commercial won an award

In 1996 a Rolo ad, "Elephant," won the Palme d'Or top prize at the 43rd Cannes International Marketing Festival. Like any film festival held at Cannes, it's a big deal, and recognition at the event catapulted the Rolo ad into the history books. You can still watch it today on sites like YouTube.

The short commercial opens at a zoo. A young boy eating a tube of Rolos sees a baby elephant and tauntingly waves his candy. He gets to the last Rolo and holds it out. The elephant stretches its trunk, and for a second, it looks like the boy will give the animal his final candy, and a friendship will bloom. Then the boy yanks back his hand and eats the candy himself, taunting the elephant all the while.

In the next scene, the boy is now an adult, and he's watching a circus parade walk through town. He's chewing something (we assume it's the last Rolo). As he enjoys the show, an elephant's trunk swings down to tap him on the shoulder. When he looks, it smacks him in the face, and he falls to the ground holding his nose as the grown elephant walks past, trumpeting the taunting tune the boy sang years earlier. An elephant never forgets.

Americans eat Rolos by the million

If you love Rolo, you aren't alone. Statista.com went to work to prove it: According to their research, which included data from the U.S. Census and the Simmons National Consumer Survey, over 1 million Americans ate Rolo candy in 2020. It's hard to think of a better quarantine companion than a roll of Rolos.

What do those numbers really mean, though? How many rolls did we eat? Let's break them down. Statista estimated that approximately 1.52 million Americans ate Rolo candies in 2020, and their research suggested each of those people ate at least five servings. That's 7.5 million servings. It sounds like a lot, but there's a bigger number to consider.

Since a serving is an entire roll, and a roll has 10 Rolos, that means we ate over 75 million caramel-filled, chocolate-covered conical frustums in 2020. Keep in mind, these numbers only represent American consumers. There are Rolo fans around the world, and — though recipes may differ — the global count must be far higher.

They have a ton of spin-off products

If it's a dessert, someone has put a Rolo in it. Even if it's not a dessert, it may have hosted a roll at some point. Rolo has a ton of spin-off products, including chocolate eggs. Do you like to drink your Rolo hot or cold? You can have it either way with Rolo hot chocolate mix (also available in K-cups!) and Rolo Nesquik syrup. Rolo pudding cups can shake up your lunch if you want the chocolate and caramel delight without as much chewing. The cups showcase the two flavors in layers visible through the clear plastic containers.

If you prefer to chew your Rolo-flavored treats, don't worry: There are Rolo cakes and cupcakes, not to mention snack packs. Not all Rolo creations appear on U.S. shelves, but there are enough options to keep fans delighted for a long time. Best of all, when you need a fresh-baked vehicle for your Rolo, you can take matters into your own hands.

The last Rolo went missing

With no fanfare or explanation, the makers of Rolo shrank regular packs from 11 pieces of candy to just 10. Maybe they thought no one would notice, but the public definitely did. It's hard to make "Do you love anyone enough to give them your last Rolo?" your slogan without drawing attention to the last candy in the package.

It became such a big issue that a BBC television show, "Watchdogs," investigated and reported on the missing Rolo. They didn't find it, but they did spread the word. The manufacturer, Nestlé, didn't share their thoughts on the issue. They probably assumed people would keep buying their favorite candy, even if they got a little less bang for their buck, and they were right. They had to weather the scandal first, though.

Nestlé might've drawn less ire if they changed the price, but they charged as much for 10 Rolos as they'd charged for 11. Fans who grew up on funny and romantic commercials about the value of the final Rolo understandably took offense. The loss of the 11th hit them emotionally and financially, so they had two reasons to grieve ... But the candy is so good, there was no reason to stop eating it.