In 1983, Your Kinder Egg Had Quite a Surprise Indeed

January 11, 2017

There’s a chance you missed the news that William Salice, the Italian-born creator of the Kinder Surprise (sometimes known as the Kinder Egg), died of a stroke at the end of last month. He was 83. Created by Ferrero in 1974, the Kinder Surprise was Ferrero’s solution to the company's excess of Easter egg molds it didn’t know what to do with in the off-seasons. Salice proposed a solution: Why not use these Easter egg carcasses to make a product that Ferrero could market year-round?

Salice’s death is part of the onslaught of other losses we’ve recently seen in the food world, coming mere weeks after the death of Peng Chang-kuei, the creator of General Tso’s Chicken, and Michael Delligatti, the man who brought us the Big Mac. Yet his death didn’t receive much press coverage stateside, and that’s perhaps due to the fact that the Kinder Surprise has been banned in the States for decades due to a law that forbids the sale of any candies with toys embedded in them.

I’m afraid this means that many Americans haven’t known the express pleasures of eating a Kinder Surprise, which is a shame. It’s quite good. If it calls for an American analog, I’d say it’s similar to the Wonder Ball, with some nuances. The Kinder Surprise is an ovular hunk of chocolate with a plastic pill hiding inside, and in that container is a small toy. Think of the Kinder Surprise as a chocolate Matryoshka doll.

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If there’s a commercial that somehow gets at the innate peculiarity of this candy—its essence—it’s this one from 1983, aired in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Directed by the late filmmaker Mike Portelly, with puppetry supplied by famed British puppeteer Mike Quinn of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, rumor has it that the commercial was banned shortly after hitting airwaves due to upsetting viewers.

It contains a sentient egg, styled in the vein of Humpty Dumpty, who speaks in a strained pidgin, narrating his way through the candy's intricacies: first encountering the chocolate, then the glistening plastic yellow container hidden inside, and, finally, the trinket beneath it. He mutters unintelligible phrases throughout. “Kinder!” he begins by intoning. “Chocadoobie!” he exclaims.

Consensus seems to suggest that this ad is somewhat disturbing—I mean, over the past decade, it’s blossomed into a meme. If this ad upsets you, I’m afraid I can’t contest a reaction like that. You’re totally entitled to believe that the video’s rendering of this fleshy man-egg is scary.

Other Kinder Surprise ads, like this from Australia and another from Canada, are more agreeably pleasant, but let’s disabuse ourselves of the notion that this 1983 Chocadoobie commercial is something that’s better left in the past. Out of the Kinder commercials I've seen, I prefer this unwanted, unfairly maligned advertisement. It captures the spirit of this idiosyncratic invention more than any other I’ve seen. I choose to see this commercial as a fitting tribute to what Salice brought us—a product that is somewhat bizarre by nature, and no less delightful.

Ever have a Kinder Surprise? Does this commercial freak you out? Let us know in the comments.

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Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.

1 Comment

Whiteantlers January 13, 2017
I loved the Chocadoobie version! Brilliant and yes, it did capture the spirit of Kinder Eggs.