Sen-Sen Candy (History, Pictures & Marketing)

Everyone alive knows about breath fresheners that are actually real candy. There are so many of these products on the market, as well as gum products that are intended to help you to have kissable and close-up friendly breath. The candy market makes new breath refreshing products almost every day, all with some new twist on a classic theme. Many of them are mint-flavored, but fruit flavors are sometimes added to the mix.

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Sen-Sen candy is a mostly forgotten product that was intended to serve the same function back before these kinds of products were sold in rows near the grocery store checkout line. Sen-Sen candy is actually the original breath freshener, and you can argue that this product was the first one to be sold with this goal in mind. Many people will tell you that this was a product that was associated with men who smoked or drank and wanted to hide their bad breath. Before dental hygiene was commonplace, these powerful breath fresheners had a large following, mostly among men.

If you are ready to learn some more about this candy that nearly everyone has forgotten about, you need to keep reading!

Sen-Sen Candy

Sen-Sen Candy History

This candy was originally sold with the descriptor “breath perfume”. It’s easy to see just how foreign the concept of a breath freshener was in the days when tooth brushing was not really all that common. The original maker, T.B. Dunn Company, created this product in the late 19th century, and it was sold all the way up until July of 2013. F&F foods have made the product for most of its long lifespan, and they kept the same process and the same packaging system up for most of that time as well. There are few candies that have changed so little over a long lifespan, and Sen-Sen candy was much the same when it was pulled off shelves as it had been at its birth.

This product was a lot like Vigroids, which were a licorice product that was made at the same time by Ernest Jackson & Company Ltd. The difference between the products was that Sen-Sen tried to walk the line between sweet and breath freshener, which is a prevalent concept even today. This was an era of medicinal candy, where candy drops were used to help deliver noxious medicines and to help kids to take the remedies that their parents wanted them to partake of when they were sick.

Sen-Sen candy came in small packets that were sold in cardboard boxes in the early days. The packaging actually looked like a matchbox which made this product easy to carry and access as needed. The interior box would slide out of the larger box, and there was a small hole that allowed the Sen-Sens to come out when the box was shaken.

These were always licorice-flavored, and the product was shaped like small square lumps of candy. You could easily fit lots of these little treats into the palm of your hand because they were so small. This candy was actually marketed initially as a cosmetic due to the connection with mouth or breath perfume that was used for advertising it. This might seem a bit odd to candy consumers now, but at the time, lots of items that we categorize as foods today were not treated in this manner.

The ingredients of the original product were brought in from places like Bulgaria, France, Turkey, Greece, and Italy. The cost would have been such that selling this product outside of a fancy store that sold perfumes might not even have been possible. In Japan, the word Sen-Sen means to glisten or to shine, and this was likely a carefully chosen product name to be in keeping with the market that Sen-Sens were being sold in.

Until the candy was discontinued, it was still being made by the same company and on the same equipment. The company did not change the packaging of the product much over time either. This was initially meant to be a product marketed to men who were prone to smoking and drinking and who might want to hide their bad breath from their lady friends.

Sen-Sen candy were sold in gold, red, and black packaging that hinted at a masculine overtone quite clearly. The product never once looked like candy and was never marketed as candy in any sense either. This was something that looked like it belonged in a shaving kit all the up until it was discontinued.

The original recipe was held close to the manufacturer’s chest, rendering the Sen-Sen product something of a secret that was held in high regard for its robust flavor and effect. In contrast, the ingredients would not be considered exotic now, but at the time, some of them had to be sourced from quite far away. The recipe for the flavor and the creation of these unique little lumps of licorice breath freshener was probably a secret for a good reason in the early years of this product’s life.

Today, the ingredients of licorice, anise, gum Arabic, maltodextrin, sugar, and some natural and artificial flavors seem really mundane. Back in the late 19th century, they were still connected with the East and the sensual nature of this faraway place of decadence.

This is not a product that you would blindly pop into your mouth. From all accounts, each Sen-Sen candy was quite powerful, and you would certainly have been unhappy at yourself for enjoying more than a couple of these little powerhouses at one time. Breath perfume was a very good description, and the recipients of kisses flavored by this little breath mint might have been quite shocked at the strength of the Sen-Sen’s scent.

Sen-Sens likely survived for so long due to the nostalgia of those who loved it when it was still a rarified item. Most people would have told you that the taste was far too aggressive to be pleasant, and some people reported that the Sen-Sen flavor was mostly like soap rather than being like licorice candy. The demise of this candy product was evident long before it finally took place. In a world where there are pleasant breath fresheners to enjoy, why make your breath smell better with something that tastes like soap?

Sen-Sen Candy Logo

How Were Sen-Sen Candy Made?

The machines that made Sen-Sen candy were vat-like mixers. These mixed the original product, which was then sent through an extruder. The mixture was then heated for ten hours, making hard and shiny sheets of Sen-Sen mix. This is one of the really interesting features of these little breath perfume squares. They are very shiny and look super hard, almost like tiny and shiny lumps of coal.

The sheets were scored and then broken up into tiny little squares. The bulk product was collected and sent to another facility for packaging to be done. The original machinery was used to make this product from the day of its inception to the day it went off the market. The company stated that the product was not popular enough to warrant modernizing the way it was made.

The company also reports that there is no generalized clamor to bring Sen-Sens back. The day of this kind of “candy” is likely long over, and there is no need to try to keep making people want to buy a perfume that you eat rather than wear on your body.

What is the Future of F&F Foods With Regard to Candy?

F&F, who manufactured Sen-Sen candy for all of its long life, has stated that they are thinking about making peppermint and cinnamon-flavored breath fresheners instead. They want to sell these products in traditional rolls. They have also thought about making Sen-Sen candy with a sugar-free base. This product would have less strength to the flavor in keeping with customer complaints during the last years of the life of the original Sen-Sen product.

The reality that the company will need to face is that this market is highly saturated, and there is no shortage of other options on the market that are not powerful enough to make other people smell you a mile away. This is a product style that is well past its prime. Hopefully, F&F will be aware of this as they develop their new products and keep in mind that there are so many other breath fresheners out there to compete against.

Pictures of Sen-Sen Candy

Sen-Sen Advertisement

There are no good examples of video ads for this candy. The product was well past its prime when this would have become an option, and the company likely thought there was not much need. There are some taste tests and other videos out there that are more generally focused on whether or not licorice is a good candy flavor.

The Sen-Sen candy seems to have slipped from the public consciousness by now, which means that checking out old packaging and looking into old magazine and print ads is your best bet to really get a feel for the advertising of this product.

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