What’s an Ōamaru sweet maker doing giving away a product remarkably similar to the late, lamented Snifter? Amanda Thompson searches for the truth behind a minty mystery.
I’m not in this for laughs, people. I’m not playing. At the time of writing, things are bad, they don’t seem to be getting better, and our Easter eggs are under attack. The Warehouse might be back in the online retail game, but unless you can bribe someone to smuggle you out a couple of choc-coated mallow chicks inside an essential fan heater, Easter treats are off the menu. My local supermarket is down to the off-brand hollow kind of Easter egg that tastes like sugared dirt and only nanas with no taste buds buy. Online rumours abound that the Pope will simply cancel Easter this year; but really, what would the Pope even know? What I know is that Easter should be a time of new hope, excitement and unabashed sweet-eating greediness. In these times of self-sacrificial gloom, cancelling Easter eggs just means the virus wins, New Zealand.
In an exclusive news scoop I can reveal that Rainbow Confectionery – a sweet maker in Ōamaru – has been designated an essential industry, and rightly so. Sorry courier peoples, but there is nothing more essential than delivering chocolate to the populace that has been shaped into small mammals and chicken ova and wrapped in foil to celebrate a northern religious festival, in the wrong season, in a secular country, on the other side of the world.
The availability of quality novelty chocolate has been under attack since as way back as 2018, the year Cadbury took its entire factory away to Australia. Continuing the unrelenting assault on joy in 2019, Cadbury then claimed it could no longer manage the simple feat of making the egg inside the box match what they promised on the outside of the box, and were giving us a miserly half egg. Apparently the machinery used to make whole eggs is not available, they’re too hard to manufacture, and we all love the stupid half eggs anyway. In the spirit of patriotism for which I am justly known, I stood up and fought back with a fearless taste-test journey to sort out the very best of the non-Cadbury marshmallow egg offerings.
Rainbow Confectionery deservedly took out the top spot for Egg of The Year, the Kiwi Whole Egg Heroes moving me with their time-honoured tradition of sticking the eggs together by (part-time student’s) hand. The past, however, can be another country and nothing illuminates that better than the fact that I also described all “hard little eggs” as like eating “candy rabbit poo”. Because that was before I had tried the Rainbow Confectionery Snifter Egg.
Snifters – I mean, do I even need to tell you about Snifters? If you are as young as my own children, then yes. My tragically uneducated kids all assumed there had only ever been that recent abomination, the Snifter Lump. I was horrified. How could they have grown up in a world without a real Snifter? Snifters were also nothing like Darrell Lea’s unimaginatively named Mint Balls, by the way, a poor substitute with some real chocolate-to-mint ratio issues. The true Snifter was a triple-layered egg-shaped fellow, the fresh green on the outside shell hinting at the hard peppermint nougat within, cushioned by a soft, dark chocolate blanket.
Snifters were related to Jaffas in much the same way that a kilo of prime rib eye is related to half a saveloy. They may be both from the same food family, but one is laughably superior in every way. The Snifter is to the Jaffa as Jacinda is to Scomo; classier, with a maturity that you instantly appreciate. The Kate to your Camilla, the Hamilton to your Huntly, the Jaffa may have been close, but even on a good day it was never as good as a Snifter. The Jaffa is a basic bitch. The Snifter was, and always will be, the thinking person’s Jaffa.
Great was the collective gnashing of Kiwi teeth when Pascall – which is owned by Cadbury, surprise surprise – discontinued the Snifter, king of candy, messiah of mints, in 2009. Despite constant and considerable consumer nagging to bring them back, Cadbury/Pascall (Pasbury? Maybe Cadballs has a ring to it) has remained unmoved. Apparently the machinery used to make them is not available, they’re too hard to manufacture, and we all love the stupid Snifter Lumps anyway. Sound familiar?
But once again, Rainbow Confectionery has proven them wrong. In a scornfully casual gesture, Rainbow is not only making the terribly difficult Snifters again, they are giving them away to New Zealand shoppers – for free. Now. Today, this week. The bricks-and-mortar shop in Ōamaru may be closed, but the online deliveries will run throughout the lockdown. For every online purchase you make over $20, Rainbow promises to send you a free packet of its new Snifter Eggs.
When I first spotted this on the Rainbow Facebook page, I couldn’t quite believe it. Were they REAL Snifters? Or a tragic try-hard marshmallow imitation? The logo looked similar – but how was Rainbow making a traditional Cadballs product? And why give them away – why can’t I just buy them? Like, a whole lot of them? I wasn’t the only one – baffled punters put this question again and again to the page administrators and were answered with either that the “eggs” were limited and would sell out too quickly if you could buy them (huh?), or – better – that they were a reward to those of us who shop Kiwi made.
None the wiser, I ordered a shitload of New Zealand’s Number 1 Marshmallow Easter Eggs and my free bag of Snifters, having no idea that what would arrive on my doorstep was a minty mystery wrapped in a chocolate enigma and coated in a hard candy conundrum.
At first glance, it seemed obvious – based on the not-quite-Snifters packaging with a delightful overuse of apostrophes, this is a new-fangled reinvention of an old-fashioned favourite. They’re close, but they’re not quite Snifters. Or are they? The slightly rough texture of the candy shell that should be smooth, and the patchy colour coverage makes me think that maybe Rainbow is giving away a trial product that didn’t really work out. Is Rainbow in it for the feedback? But then at first crunch, I’m not so sure. The green ovoids taste just like Snifters. The mystery only deepens when you cut one in half – the layers are all there! But then it’s quite a lot chewier than the original Snifter. Or is it?
I put in a call to Ōamaru but from there it only got murkier. Rainbow manager Brent Baillie’s voice boomed strangely back to me down the line, sounding far away and echoey like he had fallen into one of his own marshmallow mixing vats and couldn’t get out. Maybe he had. He certainly couldn’t shed any light on what Snifter Eggs are supposed to be, or why you can’t buy them, or even whether or not Rainbow was going to keep making them. Is this something to do with how Rainbow tried to get an agreement with Cadballs to take over some of its most popular brands in 2017, rather than see them go offshore when the Dunedin factory closed?
“I think,” Brett boomed “My comment will have to be… no comment.”
This left me only one trail to follow; I called Mondelez, the company behind Cadbury, the company behind Pascall, to ask them what was up. Had they sold the rights to Snifters to Rainbow Confectionery? Is this the beginning of a brave new dawn in Kiwi made candies? I eventually got a short, shirty email saying that Mondelez will not comment on specific matters but will take appropriate action to protect their brands. I guess when you have already murdered a mint you don’t want it being brought back to life to haunt you a decade later.
Which leads our sleuthing journey back around to exactly where we started. Like an extra pineapple fritter in the fish and chip packet of life, maybe Snifter Eggs are just a pleasant surprise that we should eat immediately and not question too closely. There are no rewards for digging all the way to the truth, baby. All I can tell you is that you can buy the country’s best Easter eggs (and a kilo of feijoa and cream lollies, just saying) online today, and get a free packet of Snifter Eggs that are nearly identical to traditional Snifters. I don’t know why. And right now, in this frightening reality, maybe that’s enough.
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