Snack foods

Looking for a green-tea KitKat or a rare raspberry Coke? Nick Duerden knows where to go
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Green's heartfelt passion for all things snack-related led him to create Snackspot, an internet site devoted to, and in fulsome praise of, the world of snacks.

"Millions of pounds are spent every year on sweets," he continues, "and millions more developing all the new lines and limited editions that come out, but where do you find out about it?" The answer, as Green will readily tell you, is to type the name of his website into your internet browser, and then scroll through the thousands of words that have been written on the subject by both Green and his devoted army of contributors.

Snackspot's raison d'être is a simple one: to provide sightings of rare, culty and covetable snacks from around the globe, and to celebrate them. So when, for example, somebody is lucky enough to stumble upon some Pepperidge Farm Finz or a Unilever/Miko Lemon Sorbet Cornetto, they take a photograph of it - Snackspot requires you to prove a "confirmed sighting" before posting - and then the find is available for the viewing pleasure of the site's regular visitors.

So far so trainspottery. But, just as Morgan Spurlock endeavoured to highlight the dangers of a McDonald's-based diet in Super Size Me, Snackspot is on a similar mission to educate. Therefore, we learn that the aforementioned Finz (which, incidentally, are cheesy biscuits) come with a recommended serving size of 55 pieces, while the Cornetto contains 18 per cent lemon juice and 9 per cent "reconstructed" lemon juice. This, presumably, is good to know.

"Absolutely it is," Green enthuses. "We have something called a 'Nutritional Unusualness' entry [containing information such as calorific content], which encourages people to question what they eat."

It is probably pertinent to point out at this juncture that Green, despite being a self-confessed snack nut, is neither obscenely overweight nor possessed of a mouthful of rotting teeth. He just likes a nice bit of confectionery and the more esoteric, the better. He recently came across a raspberry-flavoured Coca-Cola, for example, and thought it rather marvellous.

"It's only available in New Zealand right now, but I think they should definitely bring it over here," he says, smiling like a child in, well, a sweet shop.

If all this enthusiasm for sweets seems a touch extreme - and let's face it, it is - then it's little wonder it has found such a natural home on the internet, the online altar at which all the world's marginalised obsessives can convene. There are thousands of similar sites in existence, all manned by folk who take their passion very seriously indeed. On something called Candy Blog, the KitKat, a chocolate bar which dates back to 1935 and whose limited-edition flavours - cappuccino, Christmas pudding, green tea - have recently revitalised its popularity, is king. One particularly exultant entry reads thus: "My usual way of eating a KitKat is to eat off both ends of a finger, then pry off the top layer of crisp and chocolate with my teeth in a single plank, then continue eating the finger from the top down. [But] for this experiment, I'm eating them straight, in order to fully experience the crisp-to-chocolate ratio."

Yes, well. While this confirms that there are people out there with far too much time on their hands, Green would argue that the confectionery manufacturers effectively cultivate such mania by continually reinventing brands, thereby heightening desire.

"The snacks industry is in a very weird time at the moment," he says, citing the popularity of the Atkins diet as a reason for a recent downturn in sales, "and so the companies have to go to further lengths now to tempt us back. Hence the increasingly wild flavours."

Tony Billsborough, a spokesman for Cadbury, readily admits that limited editions are indeed, "a way of bringing people back to a brand that they had perhaps fallen out with." He goes on to explain that it's not just the flavours they play with, but size and shape as well. The way we eat chocolate today, he suggests, is markedly different from the way we used to, which is why Cadbury, for one, frequently experiments.

"Thirty years ago," he explains, "we wouldn't have brought out something like Heroes [miniature chocolate chunks in a big bucket made for sharing] because times were more formal. Now we are more informal, we hang out with friends and watch DVDs together, and so chocolate has become something we share."

All of which talk can only prompt unashamed drooling from your average choc enthusiast.

"I think there should be more focus on snacks within the media," says Green. "I'm sure The Independent on Sunday has great food coverage, but you probably don't cover sweets very seriously, do you? The same goes for your average BBC2 cookery programme. They'd never focus on the latest Walkers Sensations roast pork and creamy mustard sauce flavour. But why not, when you consider that more people will enjoy these than will ever visit one of Gordon Ramsay's restaurants?

"You may laugh," he adds, laughing a little himself, "but our appreciation of snacks is a little like wine tasting without the snobbery. Next time that you go to a party, take along an unusually flavoured chocolate bar or drink, and I promise that you'll have everybody talking."

Maybe he has a point. And so let us break out the much-coveted Coca-Cola Ipsei 2005 vintage (which, if you're asking, contains something called Rooibos Extract, is low in tannin, and can be enjoyed in unlimited quantities - apparently), and let us celebrate. s

For more information, visit www.snackspot.org.uk

The holy grails of Snackspot

There are a great many rare and exotically-flavoured snacks out there, but one of the most hotly sought-after items - for the moment, at any rate - is the relaunched Texan, a chocolate bar that was originally popular in the 1980s but remains difficult to find today. Similarly, KitKat Green Tea is only available in Japan and, of all places, London's Covent Garden, while Nestlé's Vice Versas (candy coated chocolate balls, rather like M&M's without the peanuts) were briefly relaunched last year but have now been almost entirely removed from the shelves. Burger King fans blighted by the geographical error of living in England are hunting high and low for "The Angus" steak burger, hotly rumoured to be available only in the US and Scotland. Meanwhile, the rumour that Burton's fish'n'chips-flavour snack biscuits may have been discontinued has had Snackspotters up in arms. Here's just one entry on the subject: "I finally got off my proverbial backside [after a year of searching for them], and contacted Burton's Snack Foods. They've stopped making them! Everyone who wants to see them back where they belong, give [the company] a call and they MIGHT start making them again. I want a multipack!"

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