Snack Seance: One man has brought his favorite defunct treats back from the dead

Apr 5, 2016, 5:28 PM | Updated: Apr 6, 2016, 6:39 am
When Ellia Kassoff realized his favorite childhood candy was no longer being made, he stepped up an...
When Ellia Kassoff realized his favorite childhood candy was no longer being made, he stepped up and made it himself. (theimpulsivebuy, Flickr)
(theimpulsivebuy, Flickr)

In the 1920s, Ed Leaf, along with his dad and brother, started Leaf Candy company. They created Whoppers, Jolly Rancher, Payday, Milk Duds, Heath Bar and other well-known confections. But in the 1990s, Leaf was acquired by Hershey.

“It was the fourth largest candy company in the U.S. when Hershey bought them. When Hershey bought them, they just tossed the name away,” said 47-year-old Ellia Kassoff, Ed Leaf’s nephew.

Cut to a few years ago, when Kassoff realized his favorite childhood candy was missing from store shelves. Astro Pops are a tri-color, rocket-ship-shaped lollypop created in 1963 by actual rocket scientists who quit the space program to make the candy.

“I called the company, which was Spangler Candy, and I talked to the president and I said, ‘What happened to Astro Pops?’ He said, ‘Yeah, we felt it wasn’t part of our core marketing mix and we stopped making them.’ So I just kind of threw it out there, I said, ‘Would you sell the rights?’ And he said, ‘yeah!’ I said to myself, ‘I can’t let something like that just die off.'”

But Kassoff wasn’t in the candy business. He had spent 18 years working as an executive headhunter. But the thrill of holding a candy seance and reviving his favorite treat was too tempting to pass up. So he bought the rights to Astro Pop. Which, it turns out, is the easiest part of bringing a product back from the dead.

“With Astro Pops, all the machinery was already sold off as scrap metal years before,” Kassoff said. “So we did get some of the artwork. We did get some of the old advertisements. We did get all the formulas. We got a lot of support from Spangler to help us. It’s a very complex product to make.”

But once the candy was back on the market, the positive response he got from other Astro Pop fans got him hooked, and he set out to see what other products he could bring back to life. Kassoff’s most famous revival has been the Hydrox Cookie.

“It was the original sandwich cookie in 1908, it was invented by Sunshine. And Nabisco, four years later, built Oreo as the knock-off to Hydrox. I don’t believe they really pushed the fact that Oreo was the knock-off,” Kassoff said.

“So you fast forward to the mid-90s, Sunshine was sold to Keebler, Keebler decided, ‘You know what, we don’t like the name Hydrox, it sounds like a chemical.’ Hydrox was a combination of hydrogen and oxygen,” he said. “They wanted to make it a name that evoked clean. Remember, this was 1908, they didn’t really know too much about marketing.”

Keebler changed the name to Droxies and added high fructose corn syrup, which caused devoted customers to stop buying them. In 1999, Hydrox went to cookie heaven. That is, until Kassoff brought the product back using the original recipe. He was raised on Hydrox, the kosher alternative to Oreos, which are made with lard.

“My dad, I kind of surprised him. I took him to the local Gelson’s in Irvine and I didn’t say anything. We were on our way to the movies and I said, ‘Hey, I need to stop off at the supermarket and get something,'” Kassoff said. “He was going to stay in the car, I said, ‘Get out of the car, Dad. I’m going to be a little while.’ He follows me, I walk to the cookie aisle and I go, ‘Oh! what’s that?!’ And there’s Hydrox in the cookie aisle.”

“He’s like, ‘Oh my gosh! It’s there!’ There was an employee who was restocking. [My dad says],’That’s my son’s cookie! That’s Hydrox! Sell lots of it!'” he said.

Under the Leaf brand, Kassoff has bought the rights to, and produced, Wacky Wafers, Bonkers and Tart N Tinys, and he uses his old headhunting skills to track down some of the original candy creators, factory workers, and suppliers to piece together the recipes and proper machinery. Unless the product is exactly like it was before it disappeared from store shelves, it won’t sell.

“We started sending out samples [of Hydrox] to people on our Facebook page. There are certain people who know the actual nuances of the cookie,” Kassoff said. “For example, someone said, ‘I remembered it being a little shinier. What’s going on?’ I wrote back: You know what? You’re absolutely right, we’re working on creating a little more shine to it now. How the heck you can remember that is beyond me. It’s hilarious how these people really know the product better than anyone.”

Kassoff loves hearing from happy customers who are as nostalgic about these candies and cookies as he is.

“To wake up one day, to say to yourself, I own my favorite candy in the world, is a pretty cool feeling,” he said. “All of these old products I bring back, it’s so much fun. I don’t even feel like I’m working. It’s just one of those things.”

  • listen to rachel belleTune in to KIRO Newsradio on weekdays to hear Rachel Belle.
Who is Rachel Belle?

Your Last Meal

Rachel Belle

Kat Lieu bakes in her home kitchen. (Photo by Jake Young)...
Rachel Belle

A Renton woman inspired bake sales around the world to stop Asian hate

Renton's Kat Lieu created Subtle Asian Baking on Facebook to create a community conversation around baking Asian treats, but it transformed into a fundraising effort that's raised tens of thousands of dollars. 
6 days ago
Owner Sophia Walker believes in fitness AND doughnuts. (Photo courtesy of Sophia Walker)...
Rachel Belle

Seattle’s No Judgement Fitness is a safe space for the LGBTQ community to workout

No Judgement Fitness is mirror free and focuses on body positivity, not weight loss. 
12 days ago
(Brooke Lark/Unsplash)...
Rachel Belle

New LinkedIn data shows more women are promoted to manager in Seattle than any other city

Women in Seattle are 80% more likely than the national average to advance to manager. 
14 days ago
Marsha and Matt Owen opened Skein & Tipple, in Clinton, last Tuesday. (Photo by Rachel Belle)...
Rachel Belle

Skein and Tipple: Whidbey Island’s newest craft cocktail bar is also a yarn store

Yarn up front, cocktails in back! When the liquor control board told the owners they must have live entertainment, they cooked up Tuesday Knit Night. 
19 days ago
Irene Crawford (left) looks at Beatles memorabilia in her little sister Barbara Horn’s scrapbook....
Rachel Belle

Seattle sisters saw the Beatles in 1964, return to the same venue tonight to see Paul McCartney

Barbara Horn and Irene Crawford reminisce about seeing Beatles at Seattle Center in 1964.
22 days ago
(Photo by Ingrid Barrentine, courtesy of Alaska Airlines)...
Rachel Belle

Alaska Airlines is the first US carrier to introduce gender neutral uniforms

Alaska Airlines' new policy gives also all employees permission to wear makeup, earrings, fingernail polish, and gender-neutral uniforms.
28 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
...
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
Snack Seance: One man has brought his favorite defunct treats back from the dead