Canadians and Americans enjoy a common bond. They like junk food, and often too much of it, according to health professionals. But within that sugar and fat-filled bond, there are differences. Canadians get to enjoy junk food Americans can’t easily get.
Let’s start with chocolate bars, usually called candy bars in the US. We have Smarties in Canada. They’re like M&M’s but flatter and sweeter. The bright colors and how they rattle around in their box make them popular with children. They ran memorable advertising campaigns in the 1980s too. “When you eat your Smarties do you eat the red ones last?” was the popular jingle. The addition of blue-colored Smarties was also a big event. There’s also Coffee Crisp. It’s a coffee flavored wafer chocolate bar. Ironically, I always eat mine with a cup of tea. “Makes a nice, light snack” is the longtime slogan, printed on the package and used in advertising. There was also a series of television commercials in the 1990s that would show a person making coffee for someone else. The person making the coffee would ask “How do you like your coffee?” and the other person would just answer; “Crisp.”
US federal law prohibits one Canadian junk food item from entering the country. The Kinder Surprise is a hollow chocolate egg. Inside is a small toy that has to be assembled. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act bans any food product from the US that contain “non-nutritive” objects. Well, plastic toys are non-nutritive. Americans have been detained at the border and threatened with fines ranging from $300 to $2,500 per chocolate egg for trying to bring Kinder Surprises into the US.
Ketchup-flavored potato chips are unique to Canada. They’re hard to find in the US. Hostess, now Lay’s, started producing them in the 1970s. Another Canada-only snack food is Hawkins Cheezies. These are the original corn cheese snacks, made in a non-descript factory in Belleville Ontario (west of Kingston). Hawkins even owns the rights to the Cheezies name. Using a process the Hawkins people call extrusion, the crunchy sticks of malted corn are covered with a bright orange natural cheddar flavoring. Ironically, this all-Canadian product was first made in Dayton, Ohio and then Chicago in the late 1940s. W.T. Hawkins took over the company and moved it to Tweed, Ontario in 1949, and then down the road to Belleville in 1956.
Little Debbie and her cakes are popular in the US, but they’ve only been available in Canada for about 20 years. We’ve had the Jos. Louis and the rest of the plastic-wrapped offerings from the Quebec-based Vachon bakery for decades. The Jos. Louis is a two-layer red velvet cake, about four inches in diameter. In between the layers is creamy frosting. The entire cake is covered in chocolate. The cake was named after Joseph and Louis, two brothers in the Vachon family, not Joe Louis the boxer. There’s also a white cake version called the May West.
It’s no secret that Canadians and Americans eat too much of things that are not good for them. But, Canadians have a few different items when it comes to enjoying junk food.