Every Sunday as we trundled out of the long nap commonly known as church, the whole family would eagerly board the Blue Behemoth – our Ford station wagon – and head for Roundy’s grocery where we had our choice of candy (on some Sundays this treat was supplemented by a sweet roll of the Long John variety). When I was younger I tended toward the Skittles (when there was just one variety), Mambo or one of those other chewy, sugar concoctions.
I can’t remember when it happened, but my taste eventually matured I started looking for things with more complexity. And so it happened. Pearson’s Salted Nut Roll came into my life. A combination of sugar and salt, crunch and chew, nougat and nut that kicks the ass of nut roll competitor, Payday (don’t trust the review though, not even close).
According to Pearson’s random, marginally dated website, the salted nut roll “was introduced in 1933 at the height of the depression and soon changed its name to the Choo Choo Bar in an effort to distinguish it from its competitors.” Mysteriously, this amazing name was changed back to the generic Pearson’s Salted Nut Roll to help confused customers find it among a sea of competing salted nut rolls.
I like the idea of a sea of competing salted nut rolls. And salted nut roll barons looking for every single competitive edge, slicing margins, corporate espionage all just to get ahead in the cut throat nut roll world.
I really hit that candy bar around the time of high school. The way the salt just so slightly overpowered the sugar was key. Beyond that, Pearson’s had enlisted the help one of the finest mascots the world has seen, Dudley P. Nut. My sense of irony had become more keen by the time I reached high school and I found in Mr. P. Nut a perfect foil for my sweet tooth.
Dudley P. Nut stood in stark contrast to the rest of the packaging, which featured a photo-realistic cross-section of the finest nut roll you have ever seen against a bright red background. The font choice shouted. And then there was the idiosyncratic Dudley ‘on a roll’.
Once I hit college I really began to seek out Pearson’s Nut Roll and would post the slightly wasted-looking peanut in a beanie on my bulletin board. I would recruit friends in saluting this achievement of design dissonance available at stores near all (only in midwestern states though).
But then Dudley was dropped from the packaging . The loss didn’t really change my dedication, but I would occasionally imagine an out-of-work Dudley strung out in the land of sky blue waters with the drunk bear from the old Hamm’s ads (this is really great ) and Joe Camel.
This past February, Mr. Nut popped back into my head. I searched on Google, I looked around candy forums trying to get the inside track on what had happened to my old friend, he of the slightly inebriated visage, roller blades and bib overalls.
I eventually wrote the company to find out what had happened and surprisingly Dudley wrote back.
Thank you for taking the time to write to us!
Years ago, when society became very focused on childhood obesity and diabetes, Pearson’s decided to drop the image of Dudley P. Nut. Therefore, the cartoon no longer appeared on our packaging.
Unfortunately, we do not ship internationally. Please be sure to contact us when you are back in WI. We would like to send you a complimentary box of candy.
Thanks for the inquiry!
The reply address was firstname.lastname@example.org. So it seems once kids got started having to wear the husky fit jeans, Dudley was retired as company model and pressed into service answering emails from creeps who find it entertaining to write letters to their favorite brands.
I happily received my Pearson’s candy package in the mail and did not share a single, damned Salted Nut Roll with anyone (of course I shared the Nut Goodie, Maple Buns or Mint Paddies – all excellent candies in their own right).
Today while finally finishing this blog entry nearly seven months after it began, I discovered much to my dismay, that Pearson’s Candy Company had been overtaken by Brynwood Partners, a private equity firm. It had come time for Larry Hassler, who had resurrected the company after buying it in shambles in 1985, to retire.
The article begins with the typical press release crap saying, “Pearson Candy Co. … has been sold to a private equity firm in a deal that could bolster the venerable St. Paul confectioner’s business.”
But I agree with commenter, ‘chiefwiggum’, who stoked fear for the old family-owned company that employs 170 saying, “Utterly frightening. Most folks don’t know about or don’t understand what private equity firms are all about, but they spell bad news.”
Maybe Brynwood will be good, but these private equity firms aren’t generally dedicated to keeping local landmarks alive or adding value to a community. It always seems to be about cutting costs, increasing profits and driving cash back to shareholder pockets, which is crap.
I just hope that Dudley P. Nut keeps his job.
(Also, seems Dudley P. Nut has a Twitter account now. Look for random peanut posts coming up here.