Jaffas and Snifters are all-time classic New Zealand lollies both in and outside of theatres
Welcome to the Snack Hall of Fame, an ongoing project in which Dominic Corry celebrates cinema’s most iconic edible accompaniments.
The increasing presence of nostalgia in this series of articles undoubtedly betrays my approximate age, but I don’t think you have to have been born in the 1970s to appreciate the two iconic movie lollies I am celebrating in this entry. Even the one that doesn’t exist anymore.
The soccer and rugby balls of the lolly world, Jaffas and Snifters are all-time classic New Zealand lollies both in and outside of theatres, and are inextricably linked for many reasons. But the first one I go to is the boxes.
Although a distant memory now, the tall, thin cardboard boxes that these two used to come in, which appropriately evoke the dimensions of the mysterious monolith from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, meant they were almost always stacked next to each other at the movie counter snack bar.
For many young ‘uns, including your humble writer, the movies were one of the few places I was ever allowed to have lollies, so I always associated Jaffas and Snifters primarily with the act of cinema-going.
They are iconic Kiwi movie treats from any perspective, but of course, unlike Tangy Fruits (the subject of a long-demanded future entry in the Snack Hall of Fame), you could actually buy Jaffas and Snifters in dairies as well. However, for a lot of us, we only got to stuff them in our maws at the movies.
The boxes were a key part of their appeal for me, because they were one of the few New Zealand lollies (along with another lost favourite, Pebbles, a candy sadly pushed out of the market by the much inferior M&Ms, which are like eating actual small rocks in comparison) that you could actually pour straight out the box and into your hand. Almost every other boxed candy (like chocolate peanuts for example) contained a plastic bag inside the box. There was something so pure about it just being cardboard and lollies. You could juggle them.
Known as “theater boxes” in the USA (aka Big Rock Candy Mountain), where they are still in wide usage, the principal appears to have been that cardboard boxes make less noise than plastic bags, so the accessing of boxed candy is appropriate for the hallowed chapel that is the cinema.
Which is quite ironic when it comes to Jaffas and Snifters, because there was no way those two candies weren’t making a hell of a racket every time you went for one. They would ‘clack’ up a storm at the best of times. It never bothered me.
These days, only Jaffas remain (in physical form, that is), and you can only get them in bags. Jaffas are still great, and are quite possibly the closest you’ll get to recreating the lamented-above appeal of Pebbles, given the milkier, smoother chocolate that resides inside them (unlike the darker, coarse M&M choc—ugh!) and the relative thickness of the candy shell.
I don’t eat a lot of Jaffas these days, but I appreciate how consistent they have been, and how they have survived the adopting of their name for slur against residents of a certain New Zealand city.
But the truth is, if you told most New Zealanders that we had to give up either Jaffas or Snifters, I feel like most people would’ve chosen to hold on to those light green little eggs made up of a candy shell surrounding a layer of chocolate and a minty nougat centre.
Yes, Snifters are one of our most consistently lamented discontinued lollies. And Pascall, the current owner of the trademark, seems to know it. So they taunt us by releasing Snifter-flavoured products and falsely proclaim the “return of the Snifter”. The most recent example was Snifter Lumps, which sounds like some sort of cruel joke. I’m pretty sure we had Snifter-flavoured marshmellow eggs at one point. What is the world coming to?
Maybe they are waiting for the nostalgia to hit critical mass to bring back actual Snifters. Surely there are some people still alive who know how to operate the Snifter machine? There have been claims in the past that current machinery doesn’t allow for the creation of Snifters, but that is an unsatisfactory explanation to me. If your current machines don’t make it, make some machines that do.
Accessing the flavour in non-Snifter form just doesn’t cut it, as the unique composition of the Snifter is key to its appeal. Mint and chocolate were previously acquainted, but never like how they interacted in a Snifter, which transitions through at least three identifiable textures as you consume it, creating different ratios all throughout the process. They really were one of a kind.
Analogous to the relationship between Ready Salted and Salt & Vinegar chips, Jaffas are an entry-level snack and Snifters are a little more adventurous. The former is for everyone, but once your taste buds begin to crave something more refined, the latter comes into play. And suddenly a Jaffa seems like kids’ stuff.
I remember thinking I was really mature when I realised I liked Snifters. They are truly the olive of the lolly world, in form AND status.
I didn’t want to end on a Jaffa-dissing note, but it really seems unfair that we still have those and not their cooler older brother.
Welcome to the Snack Hall of Fame, Jaffas and Snifters.