Childhood in a Bite: Top Feel-Good Candies of the 80s and 90s You Can Still Buy

Aaahhhh. Do you smell that? Can you taste that? Are you conjuring the succulents in your mind already? The time has come for some savory nostalgia once again.

The ebb and flow of time is relentless and unending, but sometimes it leaves a few things above the waters for us to revisit and rekindle. Of course, this is a fancy way of saying that sometimes candy companies survive their brutally competitive markets and are still making candy. You might know of a few of them already, but others may surprise you. And who knows, maybe you’re looking for a trip to candy’s past? With that in mind, here are a few candies that got their start in the ‘80s and ‘90s that are still on store shelves (or internet purchasable).

1: Airheads

Quick sidebar, do you remember those commercials for Airheads where kids ate them, and their heads turned into balloons? Did that work, like as a commercial? Did anyone beg their parents to get them, Airheads, because they thought their heads would inflate? That’s a terrifying thought to me now.

Anyway, you can still buy Airheads, and they’re still pretty good.

2: Bubble Tape

It is unfathomable how anyone came up with this, but we are grateful to them. It was satisfying to be able to cut off just as much gum as you wanted in one sitting, and the SMELL was just wonderful. But, unfortunately, it was also an early lesson in hubris and hedonism for those who tried to chew the entire thing in one go.

3: M&Ms

What is there to say about M&Ms that hasn’t been said already? They’re M&Ms. They took over the candy world, stood atop the mountain, and claimed themselves emperor. One fun fact is the red M&M is voiced by the guy who also did the voice for Fry from Futurama. Of course, there’s an M&M flavor for every tastebud too.

4: Nerds

Many candies can claim to paint the tongue in colors that would make any doctor nervous, but Nerds did it pretty darn quickly. Each teeny tiny little Nerd was weirdly (perhaps suspiciously) packed with sugary sweetness, which was probably why they came in those tiny boxes. That is unless you got your hands on the monolith that was the Rainbow Nerds box – in which case you were shaving five years off your lifespan for the pleasure. Worth it, though.

5: Runts

See, they’re shaped like fruit, so they’re basically healthy! They almost taste like fruit too! “See, no, mom, you’re not listening. Mom, just try them. It’s exactly like eating a banana. I’ll bet it has all the vitamins you get in a banana too. Of course, I’m serious!”

Sorry. Flashback. The downside for kids of the future is that we’re already going to know that one.

6: Smarties

There was never enough of them! The packages were so small! The candies were puny! But Smarties are still around and continue to occupy their proper place in every Halloween candy bucket.

7: Baby Bottle Pops

That song from those commercials popped into your head, didn’t it?

This is another baffling one, as far as aesthetics go. There had to be some kind of board room meeting where a man in a suit had to convince other men in stiffer suits that kids would be into sucking on baby bottles in front of their friends. Men who, presumably, had children themselves, children who were very interested in not being treated like babies. They’re still around, so what do we know?

8: Gummi Pizza

Remember that? That was a thing. There were a lot of gummies, not just bears. There were hamburgers, too. And peach rings. And sour lunch bags? It was weird then, and it’s weird now.

9: SweeTarts

Sweet and tart – says it right on the package. Also, the name sounds like “sweethearts,” which is adorable—a solid naming convention in practice there. The candy was also pretty good, which is more important.

10: Twizzlers

Lo, o’er the hills and ‘cross the valleys, within the halls of countless schools across the country, children amassed in hordes – fearless warriors who would defend their keep with their lives. The wars upon the floors of cafeterias and across playfields were brutal and unrelenting, all for the singular purpose of determining whether Twizzlers were any good or if they didn’t taste like anything. We may never know, but perhaps our children may yet carry the banners and determine a victor once and for all. But, unfortunately, even Gilmore Girls couldn’t settle the battle between Twizzlers and red vines.

We may be adults now, and candy is not so much a tasty treat anymore as much as it is an invitation to an early demise. But sometimes we all have to placate the daredevil in us, and sometimes that means eating a handful of Nerds. So get out there and rekindle those memories of Saturday morning cartoons, somehow surviving doing incredibly stupid things and not knowing what taxes were, nor caring. If you ever feel the need to make candy part of your daily life again, there are plenty of supplements that imitate childhood candy you can introduce in small amounts on a day-to-day basis without feeling guilty.

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