Flicks chocolate wafer candies are a treat that should be well-known to those who grew up on the West Coast of the United States but for people outside of that part of the country they probably won’t be so familiar.
While their earliest origins are said to date back to the late 1800’s, the candy allegedly didn’t get its name until 1904 with the trademark for “Flicks” not registering until 1915, exactly one century ago. So on the 100th anniversary of that trademark registration, I wanted to take a look back at some of the colorful packaging and history of the Flicks brand. Make the jump to check it out.
Originally produced by the Ghirardelli Company of California (whose “Mother Nature” bars I covered here last year), Flicks were a classic treat for generations. Served up in colorful foil-covered cardboard tubes, Flicks were striking and always distinctive. Though no intact packaging is known to have survived from the brand’s earliest days, I do have a paper Flicks band-wrapper that would have identified and wrapped a foil tube of the product. This paper band wrapper likely dates back to the 1920’s-1930’s. It’s a striking piece and is a great look at what is currently the oldest known piece of Flicks candy packaging known to exist:
That early wrapper band stands as a bit of a lonely island for the Flicks brand packaging ancestry, as I don’t have any images or examples of packaging for the next few subsequent decades.
The next-earliest wrapper I have comes from the late 1960’s/early 1970’s. By this point, Ghirardelli’s had moved to a single-piece, colorful foil wrapper. And while the historical graphics and design of that old wrapper-band were incorporated into the new design, the band itself was now represented and printed onto the foil, rather than being its own separate piece. Here it is:
Note that by this time, Ghiarardelli had moved to a “chocolate flavor wafer” rather than using milk chocolate, which seems to be what was used during the brand’s earlier days.
The next iteration of wrapper I have comes from 1975, and features a number of significant changes from the last. The most striking difference being the change from an all-caps typeface to lower case for the logo, along with the introduction of a UPC code.
[Editor’s note: During my time as a comic book editor for Marvel Comics, I learned that the word “flick” was not allowed to be used within our character’s dialogue, and the reason might surprise you. It is because traditionally, comic book lettering was done in all caps, and if the kerning (i.e. the spacing between letters) in FLICKS was a little off, the “L” and “I” could easily merge together to form a single letter “U” – and obvious trouble would follow. I suspect there was a similar reason behind the change of the Flicks name from all-caps to not so.]
In 1976 or 1977, “Chocolate Flavor” became “Chocolate Flavored” on wrappers (perhaps a labeling requirement change?):
In 1978, Girardelli began including metric gram measurements along with the ounces that had been indicated on wrappers previously:
Here’s an oddball television commercial produced for Flicks during this later 1970’s/early 1980’s era, which shamelessly borrows on Superman’s and The Six Million Dollar Man’s mythology:
It is also right around this time that Ghirardelli took Flicks branding to a chocolate bar, in the form of their Flicks Crisp Bar:
One wonders what motivated the company to launch a Flicks chocolate bar when they already had a strong brand for bars with their Ghirardelli namesake bar lineup?
In 1983, Ghirardelli gave the Flicks brand its most dramatic visual overhaul when they got rid of the classic Flicks-band element and replaced it with a more contemporary horizontal design that also incorporated the strong Ghirardelli eagle logo. They also appear to have made it a priority to get back to using real milk chocolate in Flicks production, rather than the “chocolate flavored” formula that they had been using in the years leading up to this.
I am confident that this was the final style of Ghirardelli Flicks packaging to be found on store shelves:
From here the story gets a lot more interesting, because in 1989 Flicks ceased production. But not for the reasons you might guess – no, this was because that machinery that had been producting Flicks for decades had broken down to the point of needing replacement parts. The problem was that the factory that produced the machine had long since disappeared – going out-of-business just after World War II. Unable to fix the machine that produced them, and likely looking at a relatively low-demand for the product, Ghiardelli simply shelved Flicks – seemingly ending the candy’s long and storied history.
A longer version of this next chapter of the story is available over on the The Flicks Candy Company website, and I recommend you check it out. Suffice it to say, an engineer and Flicks fan named James Tjerrild set out to revive the brand. So between 2004-2005 he tracked down and purchased the defunct machinery, along with the Flicks recipe and trademarks and set about resurrecting his childhood favorite treat. He was eventually successful and Flicks came back to candy shelves.
I had read this fascinating story at the time and though Flicks still weren’t distributed on the East Coast, I managed to get a pair of samples by ordering them online and I saved the wrappers. I have those early relaunched Flicks wrappers, now branded under the name Tjerrild Flicks, here:
As you can see, the new Flicks drew visual inspiration from the old packging and logo, while defining a new look. The design element of the old paper band became a film reel on the new wrappers, something that connects a bit better with a modern interpretation of the term “flicks”.
Within a few years, Tjerrild Flicks underwent a packaging style change, likely due to evolution in their newly launched production operation. They also increased the volume from 1.375 ounces to 1.6 ounces. Here’s a wrapper from a few years later:
That 2011 wrapper still features as a single printed piece of foil, but that would soon change. While visiting Sourthern California last year in July of 2014, I was excited to find Flicks candy at retail locations, and snapped this photo before buying up an assortment:
The first thing I noticed about that display was that in addition to the colorful Flicks wrappers I knew, there was something different. A deep, coffee-colored foil wrapper for something called Flicks Cacao! It was exciting to see the new Flicks company expanding the idea of what this candy brand could be.
Later on during that same trip I also found packages of Flicks Nonpareils in two styles!
Keen observers may have noticed that, unlike the 2011 wrapper, these 2014 Flicks wrappers are of a layered spool variety, similar to how Pillsbury pop-up roll packages are made. I’m not sure why that change would have been made, but it carried through to the standard packaging which I also picked up last year. Here’s a look at the four different colors of standard Flicks foil packages that feature that subtle-yet-unusual layered spool packaging style:
Each of those current Flicks foil wrappers has a call out to “Take our virtual factory tour” which, if you visit the official website, leads to the following YouTube video. It’s a fascinating look at how Flicks are produced with a mix of old and new technology:
Though I didn’t have them on-hand for today’s post. Flicks has begun producing a mini-sized version of their product adorably called Flickettes. They also have an impressive five-pound Flicks-branded chocolate bar featured on their site (and apparently available for sale as well). Fun stuff, and a nice array for the contemporary Flicks brand. I hope it continues to thrive and grow well into its second century of existence!
And that’s everything I’ve got to share on Flicks candy today. I hope you enjoyed the look back at this classic confectionery treat and one of the few that was able to come back from extinction to continue its 100+ year life. See you next time!