Good gravy, I wish Nabisco was still making their Bonkers candy. Rose-colored glasses may have seen it arise to my A #1 Favorite Candy of All-Time, but even if time has sweetened my opinion, this candy was indeed awesome.
They were pretty popular with kids back in the mid-80s, in no small part due to some of the greatest commercials of all time featuring gigantic fruits (luckily, not Vince McMahon’s giant grapefruits) falling on top of various curmudgeonly, uptight and/or goofy people who chomped down on a piece of the chewy candy. They rather seemed to enjoy enormous fruits getting dropped on them, or maybe they go insane from the shock of it all as they all immediately begin laughing hysterically. I, for one, can testify that no humongo strawberry ever fell into my lap while eating these things.
For those of you who may be too young (or too old) to remember Bonkers, you could most closely compare them to Starbursts, although I remember Bonkers being a tad bit easier to chew. But, the main difference with Bonkers were the “chewy fruity outside with the extra fruity inside”. Pretty much, a light shade of whatever color chosen to represent the flavor, then a darker shade of the same color in the middle. The flavors were grape, orange, strawberry, watermelon and later, chocolate. As with most, taffy-like candies (or heck, just candies in general), grape & strawberry were my favorite. Watermelon did have the cute lil’ distinction of using green on around the outside and red in the middle though.
While scrounging around on some candy sites, I see someone makes mention of swearing there was a yellow/pink combo, possibly being Strawberry-Banana. I had this in my mind too, unless I’m thinking of an old Bubblelicious or Bubble Yum gum, because Bonkers were about the same size as those gums.
Regardless, it looks like at some point once the commercials had their run that Nabisco stopped making Bonkers, but their story didn’t end there. A company by the name of Joyce picked up the line at some point where instead of being a mass-marketed candy-at-the-front-register item they became a novelty candy sold in… you betcha, novelty candy shops. These Joyco Bonkers are definitely not MY Bonkers. I would peg the Joyce-era as being sometime around the early 90s, the package screams early 90s to me, at least. The original Nasbisco line didn’t offer a mix of flavors, you bought one roll and got one flavor and that’s the way we liked it. Looks like Joyco was shooting for the Starbursts with their multi-flavor packaging!
The Joyco Regime
So where did things go wrong? Bonkers had the strong Nabisco brand behind them and popular commercials to boot, and on top of that the candy was actually GOOD. So how did they go from that to being manufactured by a novelty company and then to being discontinued? If I knew the answer to that, I could also tell you why Nabisco no longer makes the original Grasshopper cookies (think ALL mint creme Oreos).
NEW! Chocolate Bonkers:
One of the Classics: