What the heck happened to the Pal-O-Mine bar?

New Brunswick has weathered a lot of change in recent years. A population boom. A housing crisis. Strange and contentious new names for amalgamated communities.

But sometimes, change simply goes too far: like what some are calling a soft and mushy reformulation of the Pal-O-Mine bar, manufactured by St. Stephen-based Ganong since 1920.

The Pal-O-Mine, sold in a yellow and red wrapper with cursive script, consists of two pieces of brown sugar fudge coated with dark chocolate and bits of peanuts. It is “one of the oldest continuously produced candy bars in North America,” according to the manufacturer.

The yellow-and-red wrapper advertises the bar as ‘original since 1920.’ Some critics say recent iterations of the bar bear little resemblance to the original they remember. (Julia Wright/CBC)

While the signature, super-sweet flavor has always had its detractors — “sugars” are listed as the first five primary ingredients of the bar — that hasn’t stopped New Brunswickers from enjoying them for more than a century. Much like Ganong’s chicken bones.

“It’s unique. It’s one of those things where you crave it,” says Saint Johner Daryl Steeves, 66. “Nothing else matched it. It had to be a Pal-O-Mine.

“I don’t remember a time without them.”

‘Soft and musky’

But the time-tested texture, which west Saint Johner Heather McBriarty describes as “firm, kind of sandy, crystallized sugar fudge,” has been recently replaced with a filling some are finding “very soft and mushy.”

When she picked up a bar a few weeks ago, McBriarty said she immediately noticed it was “kind of gooey. It’s not that nice, firm fudge texture.”

Steeves said Pal-O-Mines seemed nearly impossible to get for several months — and when they returned to store shelves, he “immediately knew something was wrong.”

If it had been called a something-else bar, and I ate it, I might have said, ‘eh, it’s OK.’– Daryl Steeves, life-long Pal-O-Mine consumer

“It did not look right. It was uniformly square, the chocolate was changed. It was just not a Pal-O-Mine. If it had been called a something-else bar, and I ate it, I might have said, ‘ hey, it’s OK.’

“It’s almost like a thick, caramel-y kind of texture.”

The interior of a Pal-O-Mine has recently shifted from what consumers describe as ‘firm, sandy’ fudge to a ‘soft, caramel-like filling, which Ganong attributes to a ‘change in manufacturing processes.’ (Julia Wright/CBC)

Steve’s observations were confirmed when he posted about the bar on social media, garnering dozens of outraged responses.

“Certainly other people have noticed it,” he said. “I have buddies out west who said they were just disgusted by this.”

Bars ‘reformulated,’ says Ganong

In response to an inquiry from CBC News, Ganong confirmed the bar has, indeed, changed.

“Our Pal-O-Mine Bars have been reformulated due to a change in manufacturing processes,” Ganong said in a statement.

“The formulation is very similar with the biggest change being the texture. The current formula does have a creamy texture versus a sugar fudge bar. We appreciate your feedback and the opportunity to improve our products.”

Ganong did not immediately respond to a request for clarification of what, specifically, in the manufacturing process had changed.

candy controversy

Ganong famously courted controversy in 2019 when it discontinued its classic white and pink double-thick wintergreen mints. In response to popular demand, the mints were later brought back in a limited-edition collectable tin.

“When you have a classic, and it’s something that people expect, to radically change the formula takes away the uniqueness and the nostalgia of this particular chocolate bar,” McBriarty said.

“For the past 100 years, Pal-o-Mine has been shared between friends and families across Canada,” according to the candy manufacturer’s website — to which die-hard candy fans like Steeves have only one response.

“Please be a Pal-O-Mine and fix it,” he said.

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