7 Canadian snacks you can't get in the U.S. and the backstory on why
Strange-coloured soda and chocolate banned in America are among our nation’s best snackables
This article was originally published August 31, 2017.
The Canadian identity can get a little murky. With aggressively capitalist neighbours downstairs, it can be a little tricky to find uniquely Canadian products that aren't already available in the States (in a variety of shapes, mashups and flavours we haven't even thought possible). But you can proudly put your patriotism (and hunger) at ease and wave your plate in your American cousin's face; these snacks are only available in Canada.
This is inexplicably a Canadian classic. The ketchup chip has quite a complicated history. Invented in the '70s (the ultimate decade of experiment), the ketchup chip came to be when Hostess (now Lays) rolled the dice on a line of fruit-flavoured chips, like orange and grape. Since you've never even heard of grape chips before, you can imagine how it went, but their final experiment, a tomato-based flavour has woven itself into our cultural fabric. Of course they've tried to emulate this south of the border (nothing sounds more American than putting ketchup on everything, just ask culinary master Honey Boo Boo about her "sketti"), but the attempts have either been limited in circulation or discontinued entirely. Clearly, this means American citizens do not have a distinguished enough palate for such a gourmet offering.
We'll never know if Americans eat the red ones last, because Smarties are a Canuck-centred chocolate. It's not that Nestle won't sell Smarties in the U.S., it's that they can't. If you ask for "Smarties" in the States, you'll get a tablet candy more similar to what we know as Rockets. That's because there's already a Smarties company in America, which is known for just that. Furthermore, with Nestle Canada being a subsidiary of the U.K. Nestle, there is a British version of Smarties that, while very similar, has some distinct differences.
Okay, so this isn't a Canadian original – the Kinder Surprise is an Italian creation by Ferrero – but this irresistible egg with a prize inside (some assembly required) quickly became an honourary Canadian treat. So why isn't this snack surprise available in the States, a country that was founded on the Cracker Jack? Because it's banned. In the Federal Food, Drug, And Cosmetic Act (first written by the U.S. Senate in the 1930's), foods containing inedible items inside them (like toys) are outlawed due to the potential choking hazards it presents. And if you think this law is too old to possibly be enforced, U.S. border guards have been known to confiscate the Kinder Surprise.
Need a little more chocolate? Behold a Canadian classic. Many regard the Jos Louis as Canada's hand-cake answer to the American Ding Dong, but they've got it all wrong. The Joe Louis actually predates the 60's-invented Ding Dong; the Quebec-based Vachon company invented the Jos Louis in 1932. The Jos Louis name has also caused a bit of misunderstanding. The pronunciation of "Jos" as "Joe" has created the assumption that the snack was named after legendary American boxer Joe Louis, when actually, it's named in honour of the Vachon sons, Jos and Louis. And take a close look inside the snack. That's right; Jos Louis was red velvet before red velvet was cool.
This is another concept you'd swear was a south-of-the-border invention – a coffee flavoured chocolate bar – but it's actually a Canadian variation on a British treat. Originating from Rowntree's Wafer Crisp (which itself has also morphed into the Kit Kat), it was a Canadian variation that was popular enough to last when Nestle took over the company. The bar has been courted by Americans – an online petition took 6 years to bring the Crisp to the U.S., though the marketing and distribution was discontinued in 2009. So it's only Canadians that like their Coffee Crisp.
Speaking of Nestle, they have another bar whose taste is even more unique. The Big Turk is a retro-looking Canadian original; a thin layer of chocolate covering a pink Turkish delight (also known as "loukoum"). If you're wondering what Turkish delight even is, it's a sugary, starchy mixture that creates a hard, gel-like treat (you've had it at your grandmother's). Never sold in America, the Big Turk also holds a statistic over its Canadian counterparts; a 60g bar only contains 3.5g of fat.
Pink cream soda
If you're getting a little thirsty, prepare to drink in this odd Canadian conspiracy. Now yes, cream soda is sold all over the world, but what colour is it? If you said red-ish pink (in a pink bottle or can), then you're Canadian. For some yet-unanswered reason, cream soda only seems to be this colour in Canada. Crush, one of the top cream soda producers, has a wholly American history; founded in California in 1916, after creating their most famous Orange Crush soda, which led them to a host of other flavours. However, it's only in Canada that their pink cream soda is sold, with zero public explanation of this national phenomenon.
While many of the snacks on this list have roots elsewhere, the Nanaimo Bar is a Canadian treat, born and bred. Though its origins are not quite clear, the classic recipe (a layered sandwich of wafer crumb, custard and melted chocolate squares) first appeared in B.C. in the 1950's, though the city of Nanaimo has claimed it as its own. There have been name variations (the New York Bar, the London Fog) but Nanaimo has held strong in its namesake – the city's website has the quintessential award-winning recipe and offers a self-guided tour where you can taste many of the variations and celebrate the chocolatey history of Canada.