STORCK, WHITE RABBIT
What happened to favorite candies of the past?By Roger Pe
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Who could forget Storck, called the Philippines’ ultimate menthol candy, staple of cigarette smokers on the streets?
People who smoke loved its cool, throat mentholating sensation. It was like a mouthwash in candy form, hugely popular, sold everywhere.
You see this candy in bowls during corporate boardroom meetings. You see it in group discussions, get-togethers or simple gatherings.
Storck Menthol Candy’s distribution is an excellent case study. The critical mass that it has built from lean years to heyday times was nothing short of massive.
You see them sold across all channels—from wholesalers to retailers down to ambulant peddlers. It was even exported to the US mainland.
In busy areas, it was a phenomenon why ambulant vendors didn’t want to carry other candy brands other than Storck, proof of its wild popularity and acceptance.
In bright green twist wrapper, Storck was following you like your own shadow so much so that it overshadowed its nearest competition by a distant mile.
To quote its longtime advertising campaign tagline, “Storck, masarap kasama (good company).”
What happened to it?
In August 1996, the Los Angeles Times published an article and to quote:
“Consumers were warned not to eat a menthol candy imported from the Philippines, after tests showed that the wrappers contain dangerously high levels of lead, according to officials of US Drug Administration.”
Sadly for Storck, the item was very damaging.
Republic Biscuit Corp. (Rebisco), owned by businessman Jacinto Ng, bought 60 percent of Storck Products Incorporated (SPI), maker of the candy, for an undisclosed amount and took control over the company licensed to produce it locally.
In the ensuing story, Storck would stage a comeback and would be reborn as Starr, its new name with an identical packaging.
SPI also manufactures Lipps, California Fruits candies, Bazooka and Judge bubble gums.
If Storck was the king of menthol candies, White Rabbit was the queen of toffee ones.
The sweet candy was a favorite among kids, teens and adults.
Like Storck, it made its presence in boardroom meetings, jam sessions, soirees, parties, political campaign sorties, fiesta time “palosebo” games and Halloween Trick or Treats.
“White Rabbit was my comfort candy,” says a neighbor.
“It was my sweet bird of youth,” says a successful doctor. A former athlete with a sweet tooth says it was her ‘pampaalis ng suya” after a hard day’s grinding training.
But just like Storck, White Rabbit was slapped by frightening warnings from Philippine Bureau of Food and Drugs Administration (BFAD).
Wikipedia chronicled an incident in July 2007: “BFAD claimed that four imported foods made in China contained formalin and should be recalled.”
One of those listed was White Rabbit. The brand, however, contested the findings saying: “Counterfeit candies, known to exist in the Philippines, might have been the real culprits.”
White Rabbit exhausted all efforts to defend the brand after it presented an independent report by the Shanghai affiliate of the Swiss-based SGS Group—the world’s largest inspection and testing company.
The document argued that samples of candy, “ready to be exported overseas,” contained no toxic substances.
Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) of Singapore also supported the former’s findings, conducting tests on their own and finding the candy was safe for consumption.
On July 24, 2007, however, the local Philippine distributor of White Rabbit, Cheng Ban Yek & Company, bowed to the BFAD recall order.
In 2009, White Rabbit was reincarnated as Golden Rabbit, returning to the market after undergoing a name change.
To avoid the market stigma stained by the White Rabbit name, Golden Rabbit candy used milk from Australia instead of China.
Meanwhile, Candyman Philippines, manufaturer of local White Rabbit candies, which were not as soft as those that were imported from China, says their candies were safe and free of formalin compared with its Chinese counterparts.
The company even opened its factory doors to media to clarify reports about the BFAD pullout order. Candyman complained that TV networks mistook the locally manufactured White Rabbit from China-made candies.
The company also called on BFAD to be clear with its announcements because it severely affected its candy business.
It was part and parcel of every kid’s growing up years during the ’60s till the ’80s.
Bazooka was a gum made by Topps, the company based in New York since 1953. It was available in Strawberry Shake, Cherry Berry, Watermelon Whirl and Grape Rage but was only sold as one-flavored gum in the country.
A bestseller among kids, it became all the more popular because of a comic strip found inside the wrapper whom many die-hard fans collected all.
The selling gimmick was a huge success, largely because of whose main character who became famous—Bazooka Joe.
The success of Bazooka spawned a number of clones, among them Bolero and Big Boy Bubble. It would face a much tougher competition with the entry of Tarzan.
If you grew up in the mid ’60s, this bubble gum can’t be missed.
And if Bazooka had comic strip for avid fans, this one had bubble gum cards, featuring Tarzan and his adventure exploits, all in 66 colors accompanying each set.
There are still avid collectors of Tarzan cards today and each set of 66 cards has become hot collectors’ items.
Tarzan was wrapped in multicolored wrappers—purple, green, red, orange and other colors. They cost only 25 centavo each at that time.
Tarzan’s flavor was strong and lingered long before the gum had been chewed away from continuous puffing.
“My favorite candy was Regal Crown Sours,” says Joel Villaflor, a Fil-Am creative guy and a Manila entrepreneur.
“Back in the mid ’60s, my dad used to surprise me with a roll he would pull from his pocket. Just the thought of those candies makes my jaw painful. All I could find was its photo from Ebay now. I’m guessing someone has a vintage roll left. They were individually wrapped sour candies wrapped in wax paper. They were perhaps my first introduction to “sour” kind of candies long before they became popular. I suspect they are now literally extinct,” he says.
Philippine Candy, Nostalgia Filipina and WiliPilipinas list other candies:
Chivarly Pusit, known for its rubbery texture but sweet flavour;
Pom-poms, available in a white box featuring balls of chocolate-covered caramel candy;
Sugus, another chewy, gummy favorite;
Serg’s, famous for its chocolatey goodness;
Señorita candy balls, sugar-coated; the sweet and sour lemony goodness was unforgettable;
Sugar Daddy, easy for chewing because of its caramel goodness;
Butter Ball, everyone’s darling because of its rich butter flavor;
Horlicks—Creamy, chocolatey oval-shaped goodness;
Milk Duds, also a runaway favorite;
Curly Tops, the chocolate teens love to gift their friends during Christmas;
Caramel Candy, toffee-like goodness and kids’ favorite; and
Chocobot, a Choc Nut wanabe with a strange name that faded gently into the night and did not survive.