Screaming Yellow Zonkers
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Screaming Yellow Zonkers (History, Marketing & Commercials)

There are some really memorable candy and snack products out there, just based on their name alone, and this product is one of them. There is something delightfully unhinged about the name Screaming Yellow Zonkers, and it is even funnier when you realize that this was just a yummy popcorn treat. You might have been expecting something really shockingly unique or really aggressively flavorful, but instead, this crazy and zany name just goes along with a yummy popcorn snack that was light and sweet.

Screaming Yellow Zonkers were one of the first popcorn snacks to be such a big hit, and the fun and unique packaging helped to cement this product as one of the most memorable popcorn sold in bags across the US. If you like kettle corn, you will probably be really sad to find out that this product is no longer sold. It has been off shelves since 2007, sadly for those who love sweet popcorn snacks.

Please leave a review or any memories of this snack in the comments at the bottom of this page. Thank you!

Screaming Yellow Zonkers

History

Screaming Yellow Zonkers were first sold in 1968, and they were discontinued in 2007. Lincoln Snacks developed the product, which was a kosher-sugar-glazed and sweet popcorn snack. The company sold other popcorn products called Fiddle Faddle and Poppycock.

Lincoln Snacks execs asked a major ad agency to come up with the design and name for a new product, and out of their combined efforts, the Screaming Yellow Zonker was born. The design of the product livery and the ad campaign was done by a small agency. Hurvis, Binzer & Churchill won the account, and they were the ones who came up with the silly text, black background for the bags, and the zany product name.

The packaging of this snack was always a huge part of its allure. You could count on a jet-black bag with huge, colorful logo lettering and some pictures of the popcorn inside. The bags would say silly things in speech bubbles attributed to the popcorn, like “Eat!”. The boxy text that was so characteristic of the logo was actually created by Allan Katz. He and Howie Krakow wrote the first copy for the ads and boxes, and TV campaigns that launched the products.

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The product leaned into the strange from the beginning. Some bags and boxes had text that told you how to tell if the box was upside down or not. Or you might find advice such as, “Open the top, and turn the box upside down. If the Zonkers fall out, this is the bottom. If they fall up, this is the top.” The box would helpfully continue, “If nothing happens, this box is empty”.

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There were sometimes sentences explaining the weight of the 8 oz bag in parts of a metric ton, or the text might talk about how to wash Zonkers. Some bags even talked about how Zonkers mated. It was clear from the start that this was going to be the hook that made this product memorable and popular, and the ad agency that had created the Zonker went on to make many memorable variations of the various marketing materials that were so unique to this popcorn product.

The different editions of the ad efforts for this brand were actually listed as “additions” and were collected together as types. This made it possible for the company to revise, refresh, and reuse ideas again later for limited editions or to bring back popular concepts that people liked.

The company also offered a “circus box” for the products that were meant to be displayed when you were done with the products inside the box. There is actually a copy of the circus box in the Louvre in Paris because this design became so well-known and popular.

Many of the boxes of Screaming Yellow Zonkers were also covered in little cartoons that told one-frame stories about the product. Some of the characters were just printed on the front of the box for no reason other than to grab attention. There were no other products on the market like this at the time, and it made the Screaming Yellow Zonker stand out from the crowd with ease. Boxes of the product might even show the bottoms and legs of people apparently climbing through the images of the popcorn on the box. There also might be mummies, dragons, or cartoon kids on the box of Zonkers that you grabbed off the shelf.

Kids loved the crazy little cartoons and the stories that often accompanied them on the back of the boxes. Often, the entire back of the box would be filled with text and comics, and kids were more than happy to sit and read the boxes as they snacked. This was better and more engaging than any cereal box could ever be, and it made Screaming Yellow Zonkers a memorable treat.

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The Screaming Yellow Zonker was a lot like the sweet parts of Cracker Jax, but there were no nuts or added items in the mix. This made this sweet popcorn product stand out from other snacks for years. This can seem crazy to those of us who are used to the enormous number of popcorn-only snacks out there today. You can’t walk a foot in the supermarket without tripping over a popcorn—based snack these days.

Once upon a time, though, popcorn was always sort of an afterthought to other snack mix inclusions. Snack mixes leaned on crackers and nuts as the star of the show in most cases. This was before the health-conscious snacking era as well, so popcorn just felt like something that was thrown into the mix for crunch. You might get popcorn at the movie theater, but you probably liked that popcorn so much because it was slathered in butter. The day of the popcorn snack had not yet arrived.

Screaming Yellow Zonkers were well ahead of their day when they were released. It’s interesting that so many other companies did not join the fray for years and let Lincoln Snacks occupy the popcorn snack category without much competition. Popcorn cakes and other very bland versions of popcorn snacks do not inspire a lot of passion from snackers, but these limitations have been remedied by the formation of lots of different, flavorful popcorn snacks.

When Conagra acquired Lincoln Foods in 2007, they discontinued Screaming Yellow Zonkers. They did reintroduce the product for a short time as a limited edition product sold in Walgreens in 2012. This did not turn into a major relaunch, however. For those who loved this little treat, it was a bitter disappointment to realize that this fresh energy toward the product would not mean it was going to be sold again.

Logo

Screaming Yellow Zonkers Logo

Ingredients

Since Screaming Yellow Zonkers is not on the market anymore, the product ingredients need to be taken from images of the boxes. There is nowhere to link to for sales of this product any longer.

  • Corn Syrup
  • Sugar
  • Popcorn
  • Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (contains one or more of the following: coconut oil, cottonseed oil, palm oil, or soybean oil)
  • Salt
  • Nonfat milk
  • Soybean lecithin
  • Mono- and di-glycerides
  • Artificial flavor
  • Artificial color
  • Sodium benzoate and TBHQ ( to preserve freshness)
  • Vitamin A palmitate
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The shocking color of Screaming Yellow Zonkers was likely not at all necessary to the recipe and was just added due to the name. The yellow color of this snack really is a bit of a surprise when you see images of it on the boxes and bags, and those who got to enjoy it in real life can confirm that the color was that shocking in person as well. This was a product that seemed more suited to the zany and crazy snack crazes of the 90s, but Screaming Yellow Zonkers were well ahead of the curve in this area.

The product was also not kosher or vegan-friendly due to the nonfat milk in the ingredients. The sugar glaze on the popcorn was vegan, but there were other ingredients that were not.

Nutrition

Serving Size:3/4 cup (30g)% Daily Value*
Amount Per Serving
Calories120Kcal7%
Total Fat1.5g2%
Saturated Fat0.5g3%
Trans Fat0g0%
Cholesterol0mg0%
Sodium340mg15%
Potassium20mg0%
Total Carbohydrate26g11%
Dietary Fiber0g0%
Sugars18g25%
Added Sugars18g75%
Protein0g0%
Vitamin A0mcg0%
Vitamin C0mg0%
Calcium0mg0%
Iron0mg0%

Pictures

Commercials

There were to so many versions of the ads for Screaming Yellow Zonkers. They ran on TV and ran in various magazines. Some of the classic ads showed kids with crossed eyes or making weird faces and holding the products in their hands. Others just leaned into the strange sayings and text that was on the packaging. This was definitely a product that leaned heavily on the marketing genius behind it to keep it relevant over the years until it was discontinued. 

Allan Katz wrote a lot of the copy for the brand, and it is no surprise that it was such a big hit. After all, he wrote for the Mary Tyler Moore Show and M*A*S*H. Radio campaigns and TV ads were made with the help of the well-known Howie Krakow and using the genius text written by Katz.

An ad from the 1970s for Screaming Yellow Zonkers:

Another animated ad from the early days of the product’s life:

Another classic ad but a bit newer than the first two links:

Please leave a review or any memories of this snack in the comments below. Thank you!

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5 Comments

  1. Intelligent snaking. And the flavor was great also. Another sign to why the 70s was such a most wonder time if history.

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