Who needs dental enamel? Today is Sour Patch Kids Day! The sour, sweet, vaguely human shaped candy is experiencing an unprecedented surge in popularity, with nearly 4 million Facebook “likes” for its fan page and steadily increasing sales.
To celebrate the faux-holiday, 7-Eleven is offering free SPK-flavored Slurpees; we’re offering 9 facts about the candy, its origins, and whether there’s an ideal serving temperature.
1. They Started Out as Martians.
When Canadian candy conglomerate Jaret International created Sour Patch Kids in the late 1970s, they originally intended to capitalize on the popularity of UFOs. The candy was called Mars Men and sold reasonably well. When Jaret exported the product to the United States in 1985, they decided Americans were A). not as enthused about aliens, and B). preoccupied with the Cabbage Patch Kids, prompting the name change. Amazingly, no intellectual property lawsuit was filed, and the Sour Patch Kids were born.
2. The Blonde Kid on the Package Was a Real, Live Boy.
Though he eventually disappeared from SPK promotional material, the Sour Patch Kid mascot of the packaging was based on Jaret partner Frank Galatolie’s son, Scott. He remained with the brand for some time, usually with his tongue sticking out, and later sported a baseball cap. As part of a brand facelift in 1992, Scott’s alter ego was redesigned and joined by a female companion. Both disappeared circa 2011 when the candy got a gingerbread-looking gummy as its new spokes…thing.
3. There Might Be an Ideal Temperature for Consumption.
If you’ve ever observed that Sour Patch Kids purchased at a movie theater tasted better than ones bought at a store, you’re not alone: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt of SeriousEats.com theorizes that SPKs are soft and fresh in multiplexes due to high turnover. SPKs bought from bulk bins—which are exposed to air as well as grubby little hands—or from candy aisles might stand a higher chance of being stale.
4. They Provide Housing for Indie Bands.
The Rolling Stones sleep wherever they want, but small bands need accommodations when they travel; Mondelez International, the current owner of SPK, has leased homes in East Austin, Texas and Brooklyn, NY for musicians passing through town for gigs. In exchange for free lodging, the talent is expected to mention the “Patch” (the slang name for the property) on social media. To help dilute the shame of corporate shilling, bowls of the candy are provided.
5. Bootleg SPKs Are Being Laced with Drugs.
“Flakka,” which is close to the synthetic drug ethylone, is a street substance that causes frenetic behavior typically associated with bath salts or Richard Simmons. Prevalent in the Miami, Florida area, it's allegedly being dusted over candy that looks alarmingly like Sour Patch Kids. The Miami Sun Times reported in July that a drug bust produced batches of spiked gummies. According to local news affiliate WFLA, Miami-Dade police issued a public warning about the trend.
6. They’re Tongue-Activated.
Sour Patch Kids contain tartaric and citric acids, which are chock full of protons that our tongues register as sour. The protons actually increase when the acids are mixed with a liquid like saliva. Sour Patch Kids Extreme takes it one further, adding lactic acid for an extra bit of tongue-sizzling goodness.
7. They Turned Method Man a Little Sour.
Rapper Method Man got some heat in 2011 for performing a song, “World Gone Sour,” that was created at the behest of Mondelez. The gummies are prominent in both the song and accompanying music video, leading to charges Method may have sold out. “I think it is for the betterment of the music,” he said. “At least [Sour Patch Kids] got a real rapper to do a video. They got a rough rapper and they should get kudos for that and I should get kudos for broadening our horizons."
8. They Can Be Little Jerks.
Sour Patch has seen a rise in sales in recent years thanks to an aggressive social media presence, including a game app and a series of commercials intended for viral consumption. In one spot, a gang of gummies saw off the high heel of a woman about to approach a prospective date; in another, they release a skunk into a hapless man’s bedroom. The sentient creatures express some measure of remorse when they turn “sweet”—like setting out a mattress for a man they’ve tripped with a string of holiday lighting—but they still appear to delight in abusing others. You might be pleased to know that:
9. You Can Buy Their Tiny Severed Heads.
Brands often experiment with new approaches in foreign markets. Perhaps one day Americans will be able to enjoy Sour Patch Kids Heads and Bodies, a Halloween-themed promotion available in the UK that features their little decapitated heads and matching torsos. Who’s responsible for this confectionary massacre? Probably the guy they pushed down a flight of concrete stairs.