Snacks

Snacks
Janis Thiessen
university of Manitoba Press, 2017

While much is written about the multitude of snack and candy options in the US, north of the border, Canadians have fewer options overall. And while there is a huge US influence on the sweet and salty treats that Canadians like to chow down on, that doesn’t mean we’re not dedicated to our favourite home-grown treats.

Thiessen’s impeccably-researched work looks at various snack food companies across Canada, from the beloved Hawkins cheesies to Old Dutch potato chips, to the Maritime chocolate companies like Moir’s and Ganong that formed part of our collective memory and nostalgia for most candy-related holidays.

Beyond the history of each company, Thiessen looks at their current working model, including labour practices and marketing. Many of the snack food companies she covers have been part of their local communities for decades, with generations of families all working at Old Dutch or Hawkins, for instance.

This is primarily an academic work, and can get a little dry in places but the author keeps things interesting throughout as Canadian readers will most definitely suffer through cravings for the many foods she covers.

There is an in-depth chapter on a western Canadian TV show called Kids Bids, which required the young contestants to bring in box-tops from Old Dutch potato chips which were then used as currency to place their bids. Thiessen interviews contestants who discuss the various ways they collected box tops, from combing through garbage on roadsides to parent-based collection initiatives at work. It’s something that we’d (hopefully) never allow to occur today, but it was a massive promotional boon for the chip company at the time.

Snacks might not have a lot of appeal outside of Canada but for Canadians of a certain age, it will provoke a massive sense of nostalgia for our favourite treats of childhood, not to mention a serious craving for the Hawkins cheesies that still exist and that are 100% better than any competitor.

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