Wonka Bars Challenge Nerds’ Legacy

Wonka Exceptionals

Wonka Exceptionals

I Paid: $2.39 per 3.5-ounce bar (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 3 stars

Marketing: 5 stars

As a kid, I always wondered about the Willy Wonka branding for candy. The movie promised some damned impressive stuff, but in real life, the best it got was Gobstopper (good, yes; multiflavored, sure; everlasting, not so much) and Nerds. The subsequent invention of the Nerds Rope did not build a particularly strong case for the brand's continued relevance.

Now, however, someone over at Nestlé has gotten the drift. The new Wonka Exceptionals have regal purple wrappers, unusual names, and charmingly creepy commercials featuring a singing Oompa-Loompa, guaranteed to get people back in the "Wow! This stuff is really neat!" mind-set.

In terms of quality, Wonka Exceptionals are something more than Snickers and less than Lindt. But each variety has an interesting selling point, theme, and sense of fun.

The Chocolate Waterfall flavor, a marble-patterned mix of milk and white chocolate, is probably the weakest of the three. The whole thing is a sugar bomb, recalling the sins of Hershey's bars.

Better is the Domed Dark Chocolate Bar, which puts a creamy dome of milk chocolate atop each square piece of dark chocolate in the bar. The dark chocolate has a pleasantly bitter edge, which contrasts nicely with the milk chocolate. Again, a little sweeter than you might want, but with interesting enough flavor counterpoints. This is a chocolate bar that's going to make a lot of kids out there quite happy.

Best is the Scrumdiddlyumptious variety, a chocolate bar with cookie, toffee bar, and peanut pieces inside it. The texture is delightfully crunchy, and the flavor starts toffee and ends peanut. Not too bad.

So, they're decent chocolate bars, and they're doing a lot to reinvent the Wonka brand (gimmicky, sure, but that's what we're looking for), something with a sense of wonder and style about it. Now, if only they'd get cracking on that Three-Course-Dinner Chewing Gum.

James Norton edits the Upper Midwestern food journal Heavy Table. He's also the coauthor of a book on Wisconsin's master cheesemakers. Follow CHOW on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook.