There’s more to Canada than just hockey and Tim Hortons. Our neighbours to the north have lots of great things to offer – especially in the snack department. So let’s take a road trip and discover the Top 10 Canadian Snack Foods America Wished They Had.
10. Ah Caramel
These soft vanilla sponge cakes wrapped in chocolate and filled with caramel and cream are a national treasure. Invented in Quebec by the Vachon family, who, after working on their farm for 25 years, borrowed $7000 dollars to start a bakery in 1923. They started by selling bread and brioches and today, the popular Ah Caramel filled pastries. Vachon went on to become a household name in Canada while making other popular lines of sweet pastries. In 1999, Saputo Inc., another Canadian success story and the makers of cheese and dairy products, purchased Vachon and most recently it was purchased by Mexican company Grupo Bimbo. It is nice to think that maybe Canadians would want to keep this in the family, but the truth of the matter is they are in direct competition with other US brands, such as Hostess, who sell similar cakes. Vachon also manufactures Hostess products under contract in Canada but that is why you will never see Vachon cakes sold in the US market as they will be in direct competition with each other. These days there have been complaints from Canadian consumers that the cakes no longer taste the same. Apparently, the recipe has changed to taste more like the American cakes and Canadians are not pleased. Even with the recent changes, the Ah Caramel remains a Canadian snack food we would all want to try.
9. Ruffles All Dressed Chips
Ruffles All Dressed chips are a Canadian flavor of the ruffled crinkle-cut potato chips marketed by Frito-Lay. Even though Frito-Lay Inc. is an American subsidiary of PepsiCo in the US, Ruffles All Dressed Chips are purely a Canadian invention and are sold only by Frito-Lay Canada. In fact, there are many Ruffles flavors unique to Canada. The all dressed chips flavor goes as far back as 1978 when they were invented by two brothers, Paul Jalbert and Louis de Gonzague. They were the owners of Yum Yum Chips in Quebec. They jokingly mixed a mélange of BBQ, salt and vinegar, sour cream and onion, and ketchup chip flavors together to create this unique seasoning blend. The flavor was actually launched 37 years before Ruffles released its own version. Ruffles also has other popular flavors such as Sour Cream and Onion, and Ketchup, which is in Canada only, of course. All-Dressed chips are purely decadent and a problem solver when you can’t decide which flavor you want. The All-Dressed chip will be around for a while in Canada as it is one of the most popular flavors, along with Ketchup. Only in Canada, eh! A quintessential Canadian snack, Americans do not know what they are missing.
There’s no question that Canadian’s sure do love their maple products, so it would be fitting that they have a spread named after the pride of the country. Map-O-Spread, short for Maple Spread, is a delicious super sweet compounded sugar spread that is only available in Canada. It’s excellent on toast, pancakes, waffles and for making traditional Canadian desserts. A favorite old-time product for many Quebecers, where it originated in 1917. Map-O-Spread was invented by Ernest Carriere of Carriere Foods, who in turn sold this popular spread to JM Smuckers in 1989. Incidentally, although this product is called Map-O-Spread, it does not contain an ounce of maple syrup and is just purely sugar, glucose, fructose, artificial colors and flavors. Maple syrup is the nectar that runs through Canada’s veins. Sugar shacks, maple forests and wintertime fun is the image of Canada to a lot of the world. Quebec produces 70% of the world’s maple syrup, so it is strange that a product made there contains no natural maple at all. It’s almost fraudulent. Map-O-Spread, will probably never see the light on the US market, because of reasons regarding supply chain, production capacity and distribution. It will remain exclusively a Canadian and Quebec product of yore. But they do sell it in France.
7. Hickory Sticks
Hickory Sticks were created by those chip loving people at the Canadian Hostess Potato Chips company. The Hostess company began in 1935 when Edward Snyder began making chips on his mother’s kitchen stove in Ontario to make a little extra money. Hostess eventually made it to the top as one of Canada’s premiere chip brands. The company then lost their position due to brand erosion in the 90s. The brand was taken over by Lay’s in 1996 as part of a major rebranding. As of 2018, the Hostess brand is used only on a few select products in Canada and the Hickory Sticks are one of the only Hostess products still on the market and in production. In the U.S., Hostess Brands are the makers of Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Cupcakes and Zingers, which are totally unrelated to our favorite spuds. Hickory Sticks are fine little julienned potato sticks with an addictively smoky flavor. This snack is a cross between french fries and chips. They were also best sellers in the 80s and 90s in Canada, and everyone loved them. But they never made it to the US market and probably never will, for the same reasons that many of the other popular snack foods remain in Canada: conflicts and direct competition with similar brands and products. They are still a favorite in Canada to this day even with their unglamorous brown packaging. Hickory Sticks have survived the test of time and still have quite a cult following.
6. McCain Deep n Delicious Cake
For those not in the know, McCain Foods Limited is a Canadian frozen food company established in 1957 in New Brunswick. It is the world’s largest manufacturer of frozen potato products. McCain Foods entered the U.S. market more than 30 years ago and is a leading supplier of frozen spuds and frozen pizza in America. What McCain’s does not sell in the U.S. is a famously delicious pan sheet cake called Deep n Delicious that is only available in Canada. If you are a chocolate lover, you will love this cake. It is super moist and the icing is super sweet and deliciously creamy. Just pull it out of the freezer and in less than 5 minutes, you have a quick dessert to please any guest. Of course, you can also eat it by yourself in just one sitting – we won’t say anything. McCain’s Deep n Delicious cakes have been a fixture in Canada since the late 80’s, every kid loved this one growing up. This moist cake is available in chocolate, vanilla and marble topped with sweet icing. It comes in a metallic aluminum foil tray with a resealable plastic dome lid. But because McCain’s in the U.S. also owns and sells Sara Lee cakes, McCain Canada does not want to be in direct competition with themselves, therefore McCain Deep ‘n Delicious Cakes will never see the light of day on American tables.
5. Kraft Peanut Butter
Peanut butter has become one of life’s sweet food staples – unless you’re allergic of course. Popular in many countries worldwide and especially in America, the U.S is the leading exporter of peanut butter. Americans also consume close to $800 million dollars of peanut butter a year. While there are plenty of varieties of peanut butter brands available, Canadians swear that Kraft peanut butter is definitely better than anything on the American market. Kraft Peanut butter, is most recognizable because of the two cute teddy bears on the label. Kraft Peanut butter has been a fixture for over half a century on the Canadian market. Canadians truly trust in this brand more than any other. For a while, Americans got the Kraft peanut butter minus the Teddy Bear logo. It was sold in yellow labelled jars with yellow lids and had the Kraft name on them. But because of a trademark disagreement with another company who produces the same product using similar packaging, they were no longer able to sell the yellow cap lids of peanut butter in U.S. stores. Nonetheless, for Canadian Kraft Peanut butter lovers, there is no comparison. It may have had the Kraft name, but it tasted completely different. Since the U. S. market is flooded and dominated with other peanut butter brands, Kraft has backed away from the US market for now. Maybe if they tried again using the bear packaging instead. Who doesn’t love cute cuddly looking bears?
4. Hawkins Cheezies
Relatively obscure Hawkins Cheezies are not a household name, especially in the US. Why would they be when there are Cheetos, UTZ and Planters. Do Americans really need another brand of cheese puff? But our friends to the north have a different opinion. They say we need to try Hawkins Cheezies, and once we do, we will forget all about Cheetos forever. Hawkins Cheezies are super crunchy and really cheesy. Similar to Cheetos, they are a more vibrant orange, tangy and are made with real aged cheddar. These Canadian Cheezies were actually created in Chicago after the Second World War by two Americans named James Marker and W.T. Hawkins. Once they perfected their recipe, they moved their operation to Ontario, Canada in the 1950’s and set up shop. Although invented by Americans, they are not sold in the U.S., but Canadians swear that they are truly one of a kind. Hawkins Cheezies are still manufactured by the same family using the original machine made by their inventors. The U.S may have an endless array of cheese puffs and cheese balls, but without a passport, you will never find out how good these delightfully crunchy cheese puffs really taste. Unlike many other popular Canadian snacks that have been bought and resold under bigger brand names in the U.S., Hawkins Cheezies will seemingly always remain Canadian. There are even rumors that U.S. border agencies have blocked the product from getting into the States. It has something to do with a Cheetos fiasco that took place a while ago. The country has even slapped a tax on the product by listing it as a cheese product instead of a snack, so tariffs are much higher.
3. Maple Leaf Cookies
Maple Leaf Cookies are a Canadian sandwich cookie shaped like a maple leaf, makes sense right? The maple leaf is the national symbol of Canada and this cookie is filled with another proverbial Canadian favorite – maple flavored cream. Several Canadian companies produce them, mostly for the domestic market, although they do have a small cult following in the U.S and it is not only the expats who are loving these cookies. Maple Leaf Cookies originated in the province of Quebec some 114 years ago. The originator of these Maple cookies is a company called Leclerc, but DARE also makes Maple Leaf cookies which are now available in the US, but with different packaging. They can be commonly found on the East coast. The cookie and the cream centers are actually made using real maple syrup. They are super sweet and only a few can be eaten at a time before your teeth start hurting. There’s a reason why the maple leaf is on the Canadian flag. Maybe the inspiration was drawn from these delicious cookies.
2. Jos Louis
Jos Louis is another snack cake that was invented by the Quebec based Vachon company in the 1930’s. Named after two of the owner’s sons, Joseph and Louis, and not Joe Louis the American Boxer, this mini cake is made of two chocolate cake rounds, filled with rich vanilla icing in the center and covered in milk chocolate. For many Canadians born in the 60’s & 70’s, this was a familiar snack packed in many school lunch boxes daily. Today, this would be considered blasphemy and really not conducive to healthy eating. How times have changed. For over 75 years, Vachon has been one of Canada’s most coveted snack cake companies and a direct competitor to America’s Hostess Brand. The Jos Louis is a true Canadian classic, along with the May West and the Ah Caramel. They can be found in all major convenience and grocery stores across Canada, but not in the U.S.A. Sold in individually wrapped portions or in a box format, it is very similar to one of American’s favorite snack cakes, the Ding Dong. The Jos Louis actually pre-dates the Ding Dong. As you can surmise, because of competition with Hostess, Jos Louis can’t be found in the US and probably will never make an appearance, but you can always order them online.
1. Ketchup Chips
Americans love ketchup, they put it on everything. Ketchup on fries – great! Ketchup on a burger – Yum! Ketchup chips – well…not so much. For some reason, ketchup chips are more of a Canadian quintessential snack. For many Canadians it’s the perfect blend of tomato and vinegar, with a tangy sweetness all together in one bag. Many Americans that have tasted them find them repelling. The ketchup chip has a complicated history. Invented in the ’70s, the ketchup chip came about when Hostess Canada (now Lays) created a line of some odd flavored chips, which included some fruit flavored options. Not surprising, the weird flavors did not stick, but the ketchup flavor did stand out as a fan favorite with most Canadians. Americans tried to emulate this south of the border, but only in limited or special edition attempts which failed to garner any enthusiasm so they have been discontinued entirely. These days Lay’s Canada only markets and sells their ketchup chips in Canada and they continue to be a top seller. While the concept may have spread out into the U.S., it hasn’t caught on in the same way it has in Canada, where ketchup chips have become a national treasure in their own right.