Altoids are a familiar name in the breath mint game, and many people are aware of these strong little mints that are sold in little tins. This is the kind of product that people remember their grandparents having in their home or purse, but you might still see them on the shelves of the grocery store if you look for them.
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Many people are less aware that there have been other versions of these little mints besides the classic mint flavor, however. One of the little-known versions of these mints that some people still miss is Altoids sours.
If you never tried these slightly strange breath mints, they have a loyal following of people who will tell you that you were missing out. Whether this is true or not is a bit up for debate, but we will talk about the history of Altoids, as well as Altoids Sours in some more detail.
History of Altoids Sours
If you have not heard of Altoids Sours, you probably still are familiar with Altoids. These mints have actually been around in one form or another since the 1700s. They were used to deliver medicines and curatives when they were first manufactured. The little disc shape was easy to make using the techniques that were available during this period, and the modern candy hasn’t actually changed all that much. The transition to a breath mint happened gradually, but the Altoid brand itself made the switch in the 19th century when it came into the hands of the Callard & Bowser company.
During this period, the brand switched from a medicinal focus to being sold as “Curiously Strong Mints”. This would still apply to the flavor profile of these little mints. They pack a powerful punch despite their small size, and they last for quite a long time without totally dissolving. There is a lot of peppermint oil used in the modern recipe, just like the old one, which accounts for the strength of the flavor.
This product and the range of flavors that are offered have never been as available in the UK as in the US. There is a product sold by Marks & Spencer that is similar, but UK residents might never have tried an actual Altoid. At one time, Callard & Bowser-Suchard made Altoids at a plant in Wales, but the production was moved to Tennessee in the US when Mars Wrigley took control of the brand in 2004.
Altoids did spend a small amount of time being sold under the name “Nuttall’s” during a phase where Callard and Bowser were under the ownership of Terry’s. Other than this one brief phase, the mints have been sold under the name Altoids.
As of today, this breath mint with the intense flavor is sold in Peppermint, Wintergreen, Spearmint, and Cinnamon. There are also Sugar-Free Smalls that are sweetened with sorbitol rather than regular sugar ingredients. The sugar-free version is available in the same flavors as the regular mints.
There were chocolate-dipped Altoid that were sold from 2007-to 2010 in flavors like Crème de Menthe. Just like the licorice, cool honey, and ginger varieties that were made before 2007, this chocolate version of the mints did not make it.
Altoids Sours were added to the Altoids stable in 2001. These were hard little candies that were made in various fruit-inspired colors. These little candies were covered in a sour coating that revealed a fruity hard candy underneath. This version of Altoids was sold in apple, lime, mango, raspberry, and tangerine flavors.
Sour candies were really popular at this time, and this was a popular choice for those who wanted to have fruity candies that were also really sour. The sourness lasted briefly but was quite intense. They were still advertised as breath mints, but this was really a hard candy and not a breath freshener.
The tins for this version of the product were not square like the traditional version of Altoids and were round instead. They were actually quite large compared to the regular tins as well. For those that did not have a bag or purse to tuck these little candies into, the tin could be a bit of a nuisance to carry around.
The intention of the candies was also to appeal to adults, but there were a fair number of tweens who really liked these candies. There are people who will tell you that their school store offered them for sale and that they went to get them to smuggle into the movie theater as well.
Sadly, despite the early popularity of these candies, they were discontinued in 2010 due to flagging sales. There was a limited-edition tin that was made in 2005 for Valentine’s Day that was larger at 2.3 oz. The original tins had been 1.76 oz. This tin was sold with all the flavors mixed inside of it, which was intended to be a really nice way to enjoy a throwback to this popular candy in the early 2000s.
There is currently a petition circulating asking to bring this candy back. There is probably no chance that this will happen, but those who love sour candy and really loved Altoids Sours, in particular, have never given up hope. Since there are so many better sour candy options on the market, it seems like this is not really a worthy cause to be chasing, but people who have a nostalgic attachment to a product will always want to see it brought back to life if they can make it so.
Altoids as a product seems to have been refocused on breath mint products only in recent years. There have been no new and strange flavors added to the stable of Altoid products anytime recently, and there has been no comment from Mars Wrigley about adding anything new to the Altoids lineup.
For those who appreciated and loved all of the strange variations on the classic Altoid that were made during the early 2000s, disappointment will likely reign. There will probably never be a comeback for any of these flavors. That being said, there is something really delightfully zany about these older products that have been discontinued, and anyone who loves silly snacks can continue to hope for a return of these off-beat little treats.
Altoids Sours Logo
Altoids Sours Ingredients
Altoids sours are still available in really limited quantities in some places. That means that we can still look up what their ingredients are.
- Corn syrup
- Malic acid
- Citric acids for tartness
- Natural and artificial flavors
- Carnauba wax
- Soy lecithin (emulsifier)
- Artificial color yellow 6
There might be some variety to the different flavors as far as colors. This entry was for Mango Sours. Since the various flavors of the candy were color-coded to the flavor, there were likely other dyes that were used to make the unique colors. The basic recipe was the same in all cases, however.
Altoids Sours Nutrition
|Serving Size:||5 pieces (5g)||% Daily Values*|
|Amount Per Serving|
- The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Altoids Sours Tins
As mentioned before, the tins for this version of the candy product were round instead of rectangular. The tins were silver, but they all had colorful labels on them that were color-coded to the flavor of the candies inside. There was always a color fade from the top to the bottom of each label which makes one think of tie-dye. The Altoids name was silver as well, and there might be small pictures of the fruit that the flavor was based on around the bottom of the lid.
In the case of the short-lived Citrus flavored sours, there were palm trees and other kinds of images on the bottom of the tin in some cases. Other versions of this time showed lemons at the bottom. These were arguably the most colorful tins that the Altoids company had ever made, and their visual interest was probably part of their success on a marketing front.
The size of the tins was always a little bit of an odd choice, and even at this size, the tins tended to lead to clumps of candies that were all stuck together. It was not unusual to have to chip your Altoid off of the clump that had formed in the middle of the tin. This might have been one of the things that led to the demise of this candy, and one would think that the company could have come up with a slightly better system for keeping this product from turning into one big blob of sour candy after it had been opened.
Pictures of Altoids Sours
Altoids Sour Commercials:
The ads for altoids sours were always a little off-beat. The exploding guinea pig ad was a memorable choice that did not make many people thrilled with the product, and there were other really odd ads that were produced for this product as well.
The exploding Guinea Pig:
The half-man, half-woman ad:
A taste test that shows you what would happen to this candy when it was not used promptly. This is of course, much worse due to age:
Recreating Altoids Sours:
Altoids Sours FAQ
Why did Altoids Sours get discontinued?
According to a Mars customer service representative, Altoid Sours were discontinued due to low sales. “They were discontinued due to low national demand,” the rep told Bustle. “If a product is not selling particularly well, unfortunately, we sometimes have to discontinue it.”
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