Every Thursday, I'll be dusting off the retro and forgotten by offering a look back at some old commercials for discontinued snacks. In the absence of the actual food item in question, commercials offer the closest chance we can get to its memory. First up? This Nestlé Alpine White commercial from 1986.
I was all of negative six in 1986 when Nestlé unleashed its now-defunct Alpine White bar on the American market. It was a white chocolate bar embedded with almonds. According to this three-year-old xoJane article, the candy bar would shapeshift if you held it in your hands for an extended period of time, the Nestlé logo in the center dissolving into some lumpen mass. Incredible. It was also, from what I've gleaned anecdotally, a very good bar of chocolate.
It's nowhere to be found these days. I looked for it on eBay to see if some dude has preserved one for thirty years, and I only got hits for guitars. Sigh. There are those who clamor for the chocolate bar's return—look at this Facebook campaign, filled with a small but mighty bunch who wants the Nestlé Alpine White bar back on their shelves. The most recent comment was posted two days ago.
Yet the Nestlé Alpine White bar's thirty-second commercial lives on, replete with a synthesizer-soaked jingle and atmospheric visuals. It's among its medium's finest. Seriously. I don't even remember how I discovered this commercial a few months ago, but here we are. While the rest of the world listens to the new Frank Ocean, I am alone in my room plugging this baby into InfiniteLooper. "This is my jam," I once told my mother. I have even instructed those closest to me that this song be played at my funeral. Look:
Man. Isn't this the most gorgeous commercial you've ever seen?
Lots of moving parts here, and they demand a close read. The commercial begins with some mightily fast-moving clouds before giving way to a long shot of a woman, draped in what appears to be a large tissue, unfurling her arms at the edge of a cliff. The blue Nestlé logo flashes across the screen before a turtleneck-clad man bites the bar and gazes up at sky. The candy bar itself emerges from a pool of off-white, opaque liquid. A woman ice skates. A redhead, draped in a long fur coat, tugs at her hood and gazes at us (male gaze, female gaze—a lot happening here) as a heretofore unheard female voice lets out an operatic scream. "Aaaaaaaaaaauuuugggggh!" she sings. Almonds fall from the sky. Tissue woman appears again, perched on a swing against a mountain-scape. All this while the singer treats this whole charade as if it's a spelling bee, periodically reminding us, "N-E-S-T-L-E-S."
It's one hell of a commercial. Consider the wealth of talent behind it, after all. Filmed in 1986 by the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency, responsible for such campaigns as Toys 'R' Us' "I don't want to grow up!", the commercial's music was imagined up by veteran composer Lloyd Landesman, who spent the mid-1980s working as a jingle maestro with such clients as Budweiser, Chevrolet, Ford, Pepsi, and Visa. The video's aesthetic borrows a page from American painter Maxfield Parrish's "The Dinky Bird" (1904), a fine painting, pictured below.
Soon enough, Nestlé began riffing on this commercial after the product had been in the market for a few years. A summer version that advertised regular brown milk chocolate was released that same year, and I've embedded it below. It lacks the atmospheric charge of the original.
Yawn. The 1989 version, below, hearkens back to the original's operatic absurdity, though—it features a cellist on a mountain and white horses roaming around (I swear you can't make this shit up), and, perhaps, a skier falling to his death? What a way to die!
But the 1990 version, sung by Sophie B. Hawkins, is all wrong. Watching it, one gets the overwhelming sense that Nestlé had lost sight of the campaign's original appeal. Take a look:
I mean, I guess this is fine, in the same way everyone who wasn't Suzanne Somers was a fine replacement for Suzanne Somers on Three's Company. Anyway, if you watch this 1990 version and get the sense that something's askew, you've got good business acumen: The product was discontinued soon after.
I couldn't find a good answer online to when exactly Nestlé pulled the Alpine White bar from its shelves, though. Feeling a little dangerous, I dipped my toes into some light reporting this morning, calling Nestlé Headquarters and demanding to speak with a knowledgable representative. A rep for Nestlé, who told me to call him "Chad," gave me an answer. He informed me the bar had been discontinued in 1993, but he had no information in his records on when Nestlé Alpine White entered the market. Rather, he offered the suggestion that I “poke around Google” for that information.
I closed out our call with one last question—more like a cry for help disguised as journalistic inquiry—about whether Nestlé had any plans to bring this chocolate bar back.
“I can’t disclose if there are or there aren't," Chad informed me, "but I can say that if it’s been discontinued since 1993, it’s not looking good." Within seconds, he broke into a monstrous, pitying laugh. I said thank you and hung up.
Remember the Nestlé Alpine White bar? Have the hots for these commercials? Let us know in the comments! And look out for next week's commercial.