Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Warheads


The 90s were the age of extreme. Extreme sports, extreme caffeinated beverages, and even extreme candy. That's right, extreme candy. Though it may seem counter-intuitive to assume a candy can possess daring, risk-takable qualities, the 90s made it happen. Sure, you had to endure a great deal of pain and discomfort, tooth enamel loss, and burned off taste buds...wait a minute. Where was I going with this?

Ah, yes. Extreme. The simple qualifier that made children and teenagers delight in torturing their taste buds, no questions asked. Children are a wonderfully flexible market demographic. If through marketing you can somehow manage to convince children that intentionally putting themselves in a great deal of tear-inducing pain is a means of proving themselves on the playground, then by all means do so. After all, convincing children that something is cool is a hell of a lot easier than adults, and takes far less logical explanations.

Hence was the case with Warheads. If measured on a quality scale devoid of context, these hard candies would have relatively little value. They were eye-poppingly sour, made possible by all sorts of unnatural acidic ingredients created in labs. Warheads contained very little in the way of anything found in nature. The experience of eating a Warhead in itself was not innately pleasurable. Rather, advertisers had managed to convince us that our endurance of their sour taste was in some way to scale with our general coolness reputation.


In retrospect the notion is completely ridiculous, but as children we swore by it. Playground peer pressure quickly swept the nation as kids inexplicably agreed that the ability to consume an unbearably sour candy was the hallmark of coolness. Never mind that these babies were named for a form of nuclear weaponry. Never mind that the packaging pictured a mushroom cloud erupting behind a struggling, miserable looking mascot with bulgy eyes and puckered lips. We wanted our sour candies and that was that.

Indeed, these suckers required a warning label. Though not found on original packaging, current Warhead wrappers sport the following caveat:

"Eating multiple pieces within a short time period may cause a temporary irritation to sensitive tongues and mouths."

Right. So what you're telling me is right there on the package, it indicates that this will be a horrifying unpleasurable experience certain to disrup
t the normal balance of my natural mouth environment. Sounds like something I'd like to eat!

Warheads came in numerous varieties such as Mega and Atomic. In early days, the company even had the bright idea to manufacture a "hot" version of the candy. This experiment proved intensely disgusting, but remarkably did nothing to detract from the strength of the Warhead brand. You're telling me you're willing to continually put your trust in the people who arbitrarily believed that you as a child consumer would delight over "Hot Grape?" Give me a break. I've got a bottle of Dimetapp and a microwave at home, buddy. Nice try.



In the spirit of cough syrup, Warheads are now available in liquid form. There's nothing quite like eye-dropping some painfully sour substance onto your tongue, droplet by droplet. Yum!

The underlying principle behind the explosive popularity of Warheads lay largely in children's inherently competitive nature. A bitter and sour candy alone is not particularly desirable, but a bitter and sour candy that allows you to go head-to-head (well, Warhead to Warhead) with cocky classmates? Sign me up. It was peer pressure at its very finest. Warhead-eating contests became a common phenomenon, even boasting a widely-accepted list of universal rules for sour endurance.

The candies were also prime targets for absurd urban legends based on the questionably chemical candy components and tongue-burning taste. We heard rumors that children had burned off all of their taste buds or lost all sense of taste from overexposure to Warheads. You have to admit if you've ever managed to get through the sour coating of a Warhead that that seems vaguely plausible. These legends fell somewhere on the believability spectrum between pop-rocks-and-coke and sitting-too-close-to-the-tv-will-make-you-blind. It seemed possible. The idea that the mere passive act of eating a candy could be daring and dangerous and could cement your reputation was too good to pass up. Hey, I'd be willing to sacrifice a few taste buds if I could be Four Square King every day at recess. Just sayin'.



In reality, the only thing you were proving was that you were gullible enough to believe that enduring a disgusting sour coating for 30 seconds was in some way correlated to your social standing. Sure, it came with the added bonus of your overenthusiastic classmates cheering you on and the almighty title of Warhead conqueror, but it wasn't exactly a marketable skill. I have yet to go on a job interview where the boss has said, "Your resume looks great, everything seems to be in order. Oh, just one more thing--how are you with mega atomic Warheads?"

Regardless of its lack of application, this level of pain threshold was bound to make you at the very least a minor classroom celebrity. So embrace the lip-puckering sourness. It may not be particularly palatable, but it's still better than the alternative.

42 comments:

Mrs EyeCanSee said...

Haha. I loved the hot ones...but they didn't hand around as long as the sour. I must admit I would cheat when eating them...tucking it in the corner of my mouth where it did the least amount of damage until all the coating had worn off. The candy underneath was surprisingly tasty....to a 10 year old anyways!

outpostroad said...

Oh man, were those things painful! I remember feeling like part of my tongue had actually burned away. But yeah, after the pain was over, the candy wasn't that bad!

Brandi said...

I loved warheards. I remember going to a birthday party when I was little and everyone was trying to see how many they could get in there mouth.

Badass Geek said...

I have never endured a Warhead. I'm a complete wimp when it comes to sour things.

Sarah said...

I would eat the ones with a fizzy middle again. Even my mom would eat those.

Helen said...

I used to sneak them off to the the sink and wash the sour stuff off... loved the sweet layer inside!

Adventures in Newlywed said...

I was the Warhead champ, back in the day :) Delish!

Kym said...

i used to be a warheads adddict! maybe i'll go hunt for some during my break.. haha!

Freck said...

Oh my gosh I loved Warheads!!!!!!!!

LiLu said...

I was too much of a pussy to handle these. Don't tell anyone...

Annie said...

i used to put these under water and rinse all the sour stuff off them then eat them, yum!

Anonymous said...

I remember I used to love these, but I can't remember how they tasted...

Katie said...

I am not even joking, my mouth hurts just thinking about Warheads!!

Little Ms Blogger said...

I remember I went through a phase of eating Warheads.

Loved them..

Hanako66 said...

lol

my mouth started watering as I read this...loved these

Valerie said...

these were my favorite (liked I mentioned in the comments in the push pop post).

So I'm going to pretend this post is for me!

Cory said...

I have to say, I was the Warhead champion for a while amongst my circle of friends, but we were even stupider because we got nothing out of enduring such torture (we were such losers that we weren't even allowed to challenge to popular kids). Still, my friends were pretty impressed, even if my tongue was perpetually numb and irritated.

nikki said...

An award is awaiting you at my blog.
:)

Brittany Ann said...

THanks for stopping by my blog! Love yours! And boy do I relate! I remember these Warheads with fond affection!

Heather Taylor said...

I could not stand Warheads! My best friend was obsessed with the lemon ones and I have no idea how her taste buds are still intact.

Optimistic Pessimist said...

ewwww...i could never eat these. I lived out the 90's avoiding them!

Mrs. Potts said...

I don't remember what they taste like, but I remember liking them. Not only that, but I have a particular fondness for Fireballs. Mr. Potts gave me a giant tub of them once - I was in heaven!

Thanks for adding me - you have a new follower too. :)

mollymouse said...

Warheads! I actually liked the sour part... I have interesting tastes! lol. Man that was good stuff. Don't know if I'd eat it now though...

lovelila said...

I would avoid the yellow ones, and I thought black cherry was GROSS. But I would just suck really hard on the candy (resisting a "that's what she said" right now) until all the coating came off and then eat it normally after that....

xoxo, closet girl said...

Holy cow! How fun is this website? I am totally a child of the 90's.

Thanks for stopping by Unwrap Life. I love finding fun new blogs like this one. I'm off to look around and relive my childhood!

Mrs. Hibit said...

My mouth started watering at the memory of that flavor sensation. I can't believe they still make them - I think I'll pass.

Shanna Suburbia said...

I used to buy these from the ice cream truck while walking home from middle school! Ah, memories...

Thomas said...

I never had a Warheads. Perhaps I should invent a time machine and go back to the past to have one.

That...or look for some on eBay.

Kristen said...

oddly I wasn't the biggest fan of warheads until around 2004, haha. I don't know why I never liked them :) Even in 2004 they weren't may favorite but I would suck on them to get to the part when I got all the sour sugar off :)

...love Maegan said...

how come I don't remember these at all? where was I? lol

Andhari said...

I remember how I was so lame back then and mocked for not even be able to eat it so much. It's not that bad but I feel weird after eating it.

Lauren From Texas said...

summer camp wouldn't have been the same without warheads.

Kristin said...

Oh yeah! I totally dominated those when I was younger.

Kris said...

love em!

Carol said...

oh yes! Totally remember those! So glad you found my blog so that I could find yours! I think I'll be spending hours on your site today feeling like I was kid again.

Taryn said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog!

I have to say that I LOVED warheads when I was a kid. But I had one recently- and omg- they are not as good as I remember! ha.

Warren said...

I actually thought these were called Wartheads when I was younger. Kind of gross.

Anonymous said...

I actually liked them and as often as not ate them alone when I was a kid. I stumbled across some after years of not eating any, and I still think they are pretty good. Anyway, I disagree with the idea that it was all hype or that eating them is an inherently unpleasant experience.

Luce said...

I loved warheads when I was young, and I actually preferred the sour exterior to the sweet candy inside!

Sean Nolan the Immigrant said...

I once ate a whole bag of the blue ones within the course of a half an hour. I think I had about five or six in my mouth at a time. Couldn't taste anything for about a week. I firmly cemented my role as Warhead King. Everyone else thought I was crazy. I thought it'd be nice to taste again.

Kyle said...

I must have a sensitive mouth because, every time I eat these(Just got done with some recently), I actually love the sour, and the pain. I actually have bled as well as lost bits of my skin all over the inside of my cheeks and on my tongue. I can't taste things as normally for about 2 weeks after that.

411314 said...

Why is this written in past tense if the candy is still manufactured? Anyway, yeah, I remember having these as a kid. I would put one in my mouth, feel pain on my tongue, then quickly shift it over to the space between by cheek untill the sourness went away, then push it back on my tongue and suck on it. I was never under peer pressure to do it and never aware of contests at my school, so I don't know what I was thinking.

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