Summer is the time for buying dollar bags at the dairy. It’s also the time for Madeleine Chapman to rank every single one of them.
In a feeble attempt to pre-empt the outrage, I’d like to make some disclaimers. Firstly, the lollies were limited to those sold in dollar bags. Items sold individually (such as lollipops or K Bars) were ineligible. I’m also aware that bags are more likely to be two dollar bags than one dollar but that’s clunky so they’ll continue to be addressed as dollar bags. On that note, dollar mixtures no longer exist thanks to a change in labelling laws in 2012 so the assessment is on a dollar’s worth of the same lolly.
And finally, if you finish reading this feeling outraged that your favourite childhood lolly didn’t make the list at all, please stop and consider that maybe you’re older than you think.
With that out of the way, let’s proceed:
65. Spearmint leaves
Don’t you dare come around here with such an abomination as spearmint leaves. If you want minty breath, brush your teeth. Or chew gum. Or suck on a hard mint. Do literally anything besides eat a soft gummy lolly with the chemical aftertaste of a distant mint relative.
64. Non-sour coke bottle
When sour coke bottles exist, it’s sad to think that the non-sour coke bottle has to go around pretending it’s “pretty much the same”. The less successful sibling of dairy lollies, the non-sour coke bottle needs to rebrand away from its beloved relative. Start a clothing line, write poetry, become their manager, do something.
You have to really love a lolly to keep buying it even after learning of its cancelled name and concept. Nobody loves these lollies that much.
62. Rainbow puffs
These were the nothing lollies that annoyingly took up heaps of room in the proper dollar mixtures. Smooth and shaped like a dome, they’re just… there. What are they even supposed to be? Rocks? Slick bike helmets? My brain when I think about them too much?
61. Giant strawberries
Like the regular gummy strawberries but massive, tougher, and with way less flavour. You can eat them, or you can impress your friends by skipping them seven times across a lake.
For some reason gobstoppers have this reputation for being a good lolly. They’re not. They’re too big and the flavour isn’t worth the pain. Like sucking on a giant lollipop without the one benefit of being able to take it out of your mouth. Gross.
59. Soft grape/apple/lemon
You know the ones. They’re not the tried and true gummy fruits. They’re the slightly off, brightly coloured gummies that are disturbingly soft to chew and have no place on a dairy shelf. Every once in a while you’ll choose them because surely they’re similar to the good fruit gummies. Every once in a while you’ll feel a fool.
58. Red coke bottles
Not everything needs variations. I’m someone who still spends money on vanilla coke and even I have no interest in red coke bottles.
57. Russian fudge
Is anyone really going to the dairy to buy Russian fudge? Russian fudge is to be bought at primary school fairs, made by that one mum who makes it every year even after her kids have left the school. It is to be bought in direct sunlight, not under the fluorescent hell of dairy lighting.
56. Huhu grubs
These would be nice if they had any flavour, which I suppose could be said of cardboard as well. I say poo poo to the huhu. An unnecessary lolly that doesn’t even have the thrill of looking like its namesake. All I’m saying is, it doesn’t not look like a sperm and a tampon at the same time.
55. Glo harts
Never have I felt more betrayed than the first time I bought and ate a glo heart. Safe bet, you think, clocking the heart shape, the red colouring, and the gummy texture. Probably a strawberry flavour, you think, or at worst a nothing flavour. Maybe it’ll be a quirky one, you think, and taste like red liquorice. It’s none of these pleasant and bland things. It’s aniseed. Aniseed disguised as an innocent gummy heart. Biting into one and tasting the acid of black liquorice was a slap in the face and a slap in the face of my ancestors. Put a warning label on it for god’s sake.
54. Tangy lemon
Tangy fruits are arguably the superior fruit bursts. They’re fruity but with that extra kick. Unfortunately, just as fruit bursts have the yellow banana flavour that sucks, so too do tangy fruits have the yellow tangy lemon flavour that sucks.
53. Fruit sticks
There are two “colour stick” lollies at every dairy, the thin ones and the fat ones. The thin ones are inferior in every way. A bit clumpy and not very flavoursome. They’re basically an adult rusk but instead of helping with teeth coming in they’ll help your teeth fall out.
52. Sour bricks
I still don’t know what these are supposed to be. With the pipes of sherbet in them they look like a pack of dynamite. Apparently they’re just “bricks”, which makes sense given how bloody hard they are to chew. It’s a sour lolly but you can barely tell with all the chewing you have to do to eat it.
51. Spearmint torpedos
Spearmint torpedos are a step above spearmint leaves in that they’re not immediately soft and chewy but they’re still a spearmint lolly that tries to be both sweet and minty. An imposter among real sweets.
There’s something about gummy lollies that are white. Maybe it’s that white doesn’t make you think of any flavour. It’s just a nothing colour. Shells are fine. They’re not really anything but they work if you don’t have taste.
49. Wine gums
Have wine gums changed? Ever since they stopped selling them in the cute little tubes, they seem different. They used to be quite thin and packed with flavour and now they’re fatter and aren’t. Wine gums shouldn’t be at 49 and it makes me sad to do it but nostalgia can only do so much.
Oh how the mighty have fallen. The sharks are undeniably cool. That turquoise blue is stunning and immediately catches the eye when you walk into a dairy. And they actually look like sharks, which is rare in animal lollies. But they taste. like. nothing. And in this holy day and age, don’t we all just want to feel something?
47. Jelly beans
Can’t go wrong with jelly beans. But can’t really go right either.
46. Non-sour bears
Much like the non-sour coke bottles, these gummies suffer from having a far superior sibling. Sorry non-sour bears, you’re actually real yum but we can’t have double-ups in the top half of the list so you have to hang down here with the losers.
Like the sharks, the carrots get points for looking realistic, but in doing so, it throws you off because they don’t taste like carrots or orange or anything green. A fun lolly but not a good lolly.
44. Peaches/raspberry/strawberry and cream
The bulk-buying classic. The only two ways to see these lollies is in a one dollar bag or in a five kilo bag. No in between. There are technically three flavours and they do taste different but they’re still somehow indistinguishable.
These are actually fine. They’re always nice in the mixed bags but I’ve never, ever seen someone buy a full dollar bag of them so they go right here.
Buying wrapped lollies inside extra packaging is a sustainability nightmare but thankfully there aren’t many of them. I thought milkshakes were just the lolly that was leftover at the end of a Pascall party mix but evidently they have a following. They’re basically the lolly for people who claim to not like lollies.
41. Sour strawberries
This line of fruit gummies labels themselves as “sour” despite not having a sugar coating. They’re not lying though, there’s a kick to them. But of all the (admittedly very good and consistent) flavour, the sour strawberry is probably the one I could do without.
They’re jaffas. Woopdedoo.
What are hundreds and thousands made of? How do they elevate a humble pink biscuit and a humble chocolate melt into so much more? Who knows, I don’t. But what I do is that of the “lump of chocolate with added bits”, the freckle is far from the best.
38. Aniseed wheels
You already know my thoughts about aniseed. These wheels always tempted me as a kid because they looked like a giant hard sherbet lolly. Feeling very thankful that I was always too cheap to risk spending 40 cents on a new lolly because it would’ve been my second worst investment after putting $100 on the Cavs to win the 2017 NBA finals. If you like aniseed you’ll probably love these. If you’re a regular person, you won’t.
Mixing two different types of gummy is a risk that can easily backfire. Volcanoes, blue base with red lava, don’t necessarily backfire but they’re a fair bit of nothing. They’re always popular though because they look like they’ll be intense, which is half the work. Don’t be fooled.
You won’t find these bad boys in every dairy but they’re worth a shout, even just once. Sour watermelons are essentially volcanoes with extra sugar. Still mediocre but a tiny bit sweeter.
35. Pineapple lumps
Before you write an angry email accusing me of being unpatriotic, hear me out. Pascall’s pineapple lumps are maybe the greatest sweet treat in the world. Off-brand pineapple lumps are still great though not quite as mind-blowing. I understand all that. But this is a ranking of dairy lollies and I cannot, in good conscience, rank pineapple lumps any higher while knowing that they are essentially a supermarket lolly. Dairy exclusivity elevates every lolly above this. So don’t bother feeling outrage on pineapple lumps’ behalf here at the indie awards. They’ve found success in the mainstream and will be just fine.
[Update: I realise I have forgotten jet planes but I’ve already assigned numbers so unless they go dead last, I’ll place them here. Jet planes are good but are supermarket lollies. Condolences.]
34. Rainbow bars
I’ve noticed that people who are long in the tooth (euphemism and pun at the same time, you’re welcome) are very fond of these rainbow bars. I tasted one for the first time this week and I gotta tell you, I wasn’t impressed. What even is it? It tasted a little gooey like marshmallow but also jelly but also sugar granuley. Not a fan but I respect my elders so will rank it here.
33. Tangy grapes
The second best tangy fruit. That’s it, really.
No gummy is harder to chew than the infamous colourful crocodiles. It’s so, so hard. I used to think some off them had gone stale but no, that’s how hard they’re supposed to be. They’re a lovely colour, though, and the shape and size makes it fun to eat so credit where credit’s due.
31. Spinning top gum
All sweet gum is gross after approximately ten (10) seconds or seven (7) chews. I’m honestly surprised these are still available. You do you, concrete gum.
30. Big long snake
Long live the long snake. Probably because it’s so much bigger than other lollies, the texture of this one is slightly different to smaller worms or fruits. I actually really like it, and all the different colour combinations are tasty in their own right. Strangely, a long gummy snake works particularly well as a movie snack. Try it next time you stop at a dairy or even supermarket (they’re often in the pick’n’mix) to buy reasonably priced food for your cinematic experience.
29. Sour hearts
The yellow and red sour heart is a staple in every dairy. Inoffensive and with a gummy texture that’s not too hard and not too gooey, it’s maybe the safest, most consistent choice in a dairy lolly.
28. Blowpipes – rainbow, green, red
I like blowpipes (wish they had a better name than blowpipes tbh) but I’m aware that they’re polarising. They look like the scary red electric cords from the space level in Crash Bandicoot 2 and I assume that’s exactly what the manufacturers were going for. Unfortunately they’re sherbet without being sour, which makes the sherbet a bit pointless. But they come in nice colours and are satisfying to eat via being like a sweet noodle.
27. Fried eggs
Trolli, the makers of the iconic gummy pizzas, burgers, and hot dogs, have only a few lollies in this list. Sadly, because the fast food items are sold individually in their own packaging, they do not qualify (if they did, they’d rank very high). But the trolli lolly that does qualify is the fried egg. Like their other creations, the fried egg looks exactly like a fried egg. It’s a combination gummy, with the egg white being a fluffier texture to the sunny side up yolk, and it’s surprisingly creamy. A good egg.
26. Liquorice rope
The red Wonka liquorice ropes used to be stored in their bulk box, all stretched out and removed with a pair of tongs by god herself (the dairy owner). But for some reason, maybe health and safety regulations, they are now looped like a lasso rope and sold as a dollar bag. It’s taken away some of the fun but none of the flavour.
25. Sour grapes
Hahaha sour grapes, get it? I thought this list would be way easier than the chips one but I’m already at 2200 words hahaha je suis sour grapes.
24. Fairy mushrooms
Apparently these are really good? They tasted like liquorice all sorts without the liquorice. Aka kinda gross. But when I brought some into the office they were eaten pretty quick. Granted even the ones that were deemed disgusting and “not even food” were polished off by the end of the day.
23. Sherbet discs
Placing one of these on your tongue and feeling it dissolve like the mildest chemical burn is a uniquely New Zealand thrill. They’re also the best option in those weird lolly machines where you turn the handle and the sweets drop down the chute. Is this relevant to anyone? I’ve only ever seen them at Placemakers in Kaiwharawhara and VTNZ offices.
22. Milk bottles
Again, close the “about the Spinoff” tab searching for my email address and let me explain. Milk bottles used to be great. They were dense, creamy, actually tasted like milk which was somehow delicious. Now, they are nothing. They’re soft and airy and don’t taste like milk at all. Honestly, they belong way lower on the list than this but I’m too scared.
21. Sour bears
The best bear. Wee sugar-coated pastel bears that are a delight to binge. They’re so small it feels like you’re barely eating anything. But you are. You’re eating a lot.
A truly sadistic move from whoever invented these tooth-decayers in the shape of teeth. They don’t even taste very good but you really can’t beat the interactive experience of moulding the fake teeth over your real teeth. Great gag and therefore great lolly.
19. Marshmallow twists
You shouldn’t be going to the dairy to buy marshmallows. But if you insist on being weird, at least buy marshmallow twists.
18. Coconut rough
All non-branded chocolate tastes a little bit like plastic. That’s the rule. Genuine chocolate with genuine coconut would be so full-on and sweet and you could probably only eat a little. Dollar bag coconut rough is none of those things and therefore perfect. I wouldn’t even consider it real coconut rough. It is its own thing and should never change.
17. Sour lemons
Sour lemons are really, really good. Unfortunately they’re part of a gummy line that’s superior in taste to every other lolly and I wasn’t going to put all five in the top 10. Lemon as a flavour isn’t as sickly sweet as other fruits so it’s a refreshing option when you’re not quite up to a grape or berry lolly. Highly recommend for a hot summer’s day.
16. Tangy apples
The greatest fruit-flavoured chewy candy in the world. Tangy apples are to fruit bursts what Johnnie Walker blue label is to Jim Beam. I only just now realised how strangely Johnnie is spelled. Look at it properly. So many letters. But I digress, the tangy apple is a pillar of the dairy lolly empire and one of few wrapped lollies that have stood the test of time and convenience.
15. Strawberry ones that live exclusively in old people’s pockets
Speaking of wrapped lollies and standing the test of time. WHERE DO THESE LOLLIES COME FROM? There are actually other flavours (pineapple, a weird banana-shaped one) but the strawberry ones are the only ones that matter. I’ve never seen them in a store and never seen them in a packet. But every once in a while I spot them in a plastic dollar bag at the dairy and I smile. It’s nice to know that some mysteries live on in this world.
14. Y2K bugs
When the world was maybe about to end on December 31st, 1999, capitalism strutted its stuff with Armageddon-themed everything, including lollies. The Y2K bugs, named for the potential computer bug but shaped like real-life bugs, were sour gummy lollies in pink, purple, yellow and blue. If I recall correctly, the packaging was green and was Pascall, given Allens had only red packaging at the time. When the world didn’t end, the sale of the lollies dropped off. It felt like buying Christmas chocolates in March. But the actual lollies were good. Really good. They began appearing sans packaging in local dairies. I figured it was simply the stores trying to get rid of their excess, now culturally irrelevant, stock. But a full two decades later they’re still around. May the Y2K bug never die.
[My search for an image of “Y2K bug lollies” was futile. Turns out they’re called ‘sour spiders’ which is making me question every memory I’ve ever had. But I was right about them being Pascall at least.]
13. Chocolate fish
Is there anybody in the world who doesn’t enjoy a chocolate fish? The creaminess of the chocolate and the colour of the marshmallow may differ with brands but the iconicity stays the same. The pink mini ones most often found in dairies are dangerous in that you could probably eat a dozen before wondering if maybe you should stop. Chocolate fish are probably the only lollies on this list that you could put on a fancy dessert platter and get away with it. We stan a versatile fish.
12. Sour snakes
Trolli is back, nailing the sour snake. Step aside Naturals, these mini, almost fluorescent snakes (or are they worms) are the best in the business. The colours mean absolutely nothing since they all taste the same but that same taste is heaven. A quintessential dairy purchase.
11. Sour peaches
“I can’t believe these aren’t in the top 10. You’re gonna get cancelled again.” – Alex Casey
10. Tangy sticks
You know the ones. They’re in every dairy and, for some reason, a bunch of supermarket pick’n’mix aisles. I have no idea what they’re made of (not gummy, not sherbet, not hard) but they’re the perfect snack if you don’t feel like chewing much. And they are tangy. Did you know tangy means having a piquant flavour? Oh you don’t know what piquant is either? Well, it’s a pleasantly sharp taste. Do NOT ask me to pronounce it, I don’t know how. What I do know is tangy sticks taste way better than they look.
You could argue that TNTs shouldn’t be in this list at all because they’re individually wrapped. You could argue that, and you probably will argue that, but it’s too late. What’s done is done. TNTs used to be sold separately and were one of the rare 10 cent lollies for the high rollers. But given the shift away from build-a-bags, they’re now sold almost exclusively as dollar bags. And what a dollar bag. They’re the only lolly with actual liquid in them and are proper sour. In lieu of putting the almighty zombie chew on this list, I put the mini equivalent.
8. Orange chocolate fish
Dairies are most often visited in the summer, when it’s hot. Buying chocolate leaves one in danger of ending up with a palm of melted goo instead of a lolly. But thanks to the fact that orange chocolate fish almost certainly don’t have real cocoa butter in them, they’ll barely melt in the heat. Just one of many reasons to love this old classic.
It’s a plain gummy done right. Small, soft, but still splits when you bite into it (the bad soft gummies don’t split and it’s gross). There’s nothing special about these strawberries but they’ve had many impersonators over the years and none have lived up to OG.
6. Sour rainbow straps
The sweetest of all the sweets. Sour rainbow strips may as well be called “sugar with a side of colouring”. The actual sweet is so thin and of so little substance that to eat one is to let sugar dissolve in your mouth. In other words, they’re good.
5. Toffee milk
Whittaker’s toffee milk aka the extremely hard caramel chocolate that sits in a box on every dairy counter. Only now, probably thanks to health and safety regulations again, they’re sold separately in dollar bags. It’s not technically a “dollar bag” lolly in the same way that this list isn’t technically “journalism” and yet here we are. Toffee milk is the most sophisticated lolly you can buy from the dairy and for that reason alone, it deserves a top five placing.
4. Raspberry drops
I discovered these late (year 12, shoutout Dilip’s Four Square in Wellington) but boy did I make up for lost time. Raspberry drops are easily the best value for money in that they last for ages and you get a bunch in every bag. The one downside is they make your tongue go red/purple which is fine for a kid after school and less fine for an adult in a work meeting. As far as taste and longevity goes, you simply cannot beat a raspberry drop.
3. Spinning tops
On the other end of that spectrum is the spinning top. Made from something similar to tangy sticks, spinning tops are neither hard nor gummy but all delicious. Be warned though, sometimes if bags aren’t sealed properly they go stale and you end up buying a bag of rocks. Like, actual rocks. There’s a small chance of getting a dud bag but the risk is worth it.
2. Sour feijoas
I’ve been warned by multiple colleagues that putting sour feijoas at number two is just asking for trouble. Well, as that nightmare toddler in that one random episode of Supernanny I watched 15 years ago said, “It’s my show I do what I like!” The sour feijoa is a relatively new addition to the dairy catalogue but, along with its fruity friends, its taken the world by storm. What sets the sour feijoa apart is that it, wait for it, actually tastes like a feijoa. That’s it. Amazing what a little bit of honesty can do to a person.
1. Sour coke bottles
If you people complain about sour coke bottles being number one I swear to god… There is no greater dairy lolly than the sour coke bottle. It’s the first thing you go for as soon as you spot the dollar bag section. New Zealand dairies sell four things the best and the most: Ice blocks, pies, darts, and sour coke bottles. It’s the must-have summer accessory. Never in the history of this country has somebody turned down a sour coke bottle when offered one. “Go grab some lollies from the dairy” means go pick out a few risky options but make sure at least one is sour coke bottles. Because the sour coke bottle is comfort, the sour coke bottle is a burst of energy on a long day, and the sour coke bottle is convenience in a sugar-coated package.
The sour coke bottle is the best dairy lolly in New Zealand.
The Spinoff’s food content is brought to you by Freedom Farms. They believe talking about food is nearly as much fun as eating it, and they’re excited to facilitate some good conversations around food provenance in Aotearoa New Zealand.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.