Sunday, 11 June 2017

Remembering Storck: or how a menthol candy became a "Cool Kasama" to everyone

Remembering Storck:  or how a menthol candy 
became a "Cool Kasama" to everyone

Who could forget the ultimate menthol candy that was the staple of cigarette smokers on the streets? Of it's sweet taste and its mentholating sensation enough for a cough drop? This may be a better, if not the best desciption about a once-known menthol candy that goes by the name "Storck."

And in it as according to Roger Pe from his Inquirer article "What happened to favourite candies of the past", he stated that:

"Storck's menthol Candy’s distribution is an excellent case study. The critical mass that it has built from lean years to heyday times was nothing short of massive.
You see them sold across all channels—from wholesalers to retailers down to ambulant peddlers."

Yes indeed, for this person, as he remembered, it was commonly seen in the streets with cigarette vendors shouting "Storck" and "Juicy Fruit" alongside "Malboro" and "Philip Morris."

And all because of that nostalgia that "triggers" everyone (including yours truly) to remember, this person hath wanted to discover more on how Storck became known as a "Cool Kasama" to most Filipinos.

A Deutsch-y beginning

It all started when Storck Products Incorporated was established in 1968 as a licensee of August Storck KG with its production plant in Pasig City. Among its initial products are Storck Eucalyptus Menthol, Storck Durchbeisser toffee, and Riesen Schoko. However, of all the brands, the company was concentrated in establishing Storck Eucalyptus Menthol as its flagship brand.

Sounds interesting isn't it? Knowing that August Storck KG, a company based in Halle, North Rhine-Wesphalia in Germany, was one of the German-owned companies who afforded to set up a company producing sweets in the Philippines, and perhaps a first in Asia.
And also to think that Philippine-German relations was quite "young" (started in 1955) at that time, Storck was one of the German-owned companies who afforded to make friendships stronger, longer, and in case of the candy being produced: sweeter.

The original Storck candy with its old school wrapper
source: Gettyimages
Making the candy well-known

As what Pe saidth in his article, Storck menthol candy's consumer base has encompassed from class A to D, from its heyday times it was nothing short of a massive as everyoe buys that well-known candy from supermarkets, sari-sari stores, to ambulant peddlers such as the newspaper guy who also sells cigarettes and candies. And to think that Storck has been synonymous with menthol candy, it was been a staple of cigarette smokers, those having bad breath looking for a freshener, and kids whose sweeth tooth cravings include menthol if there's no chocolate. 

Judging by its tagline: "Storck, Masarap Kasama", the German-named candy's future seemed so bright as most Filipinos enjoyed it be it a kid with a sweet tooth or an old smoker seeking for a breath freshener. 

Or so everyone thought of.

A Lead-laced problem

However, many years later, the well-known candy everyone loved faced a bigger problem. For in 1996, the Los Angeles Times stated that Storck candy wrappers were reportedly contain "dangerously high levels of lead," And because of it the candy wasn't allowed to enter the United States. Everyone somehow felt compelled not to buy knowing that the product's content was contaminated with lead and hence advisable not to consume it although there were no reports about one or another hath been poisoned after eating a candy that was then wrapped in a plastic with strains of lead.

Source: Manila Standard
Source: Manila Standard
But in spite of the reports Storck tried much to retain its image knowing that most Filipinos equate Menthol candies with Storck. In its advertisement, it was stated that the candy was safe according to the tests conducted by the Bureau of Food and Drugs (now as the "Food and Drug Administration"), that it had met strict quality controls, and insisted that the lead content was found in the outer wrappers according to the Bureau itself; and besides reaffirming that the Pasig-based Storck Products Inc. as a licensee of Halle-based August Storck KG, it had even changed its wrapper from its original twisted version and later be rechristened as "Starr" with an almost identical packaging.

But still, that major problem took the company a downturn.

Left: Storck menthol candy in its "improved" packaging and new name after the "lead" issue.
Right: Storck after being sold to Jacinto Ng's Rebisco and became SPI Corporation.
"Starr" remained its banner product.
Enter Rebisco (and goodbye Storck!)

Several years after the incident, Jacinto Ng of the Republic Biscuits Company, in his part of an expansion plan, "came to the rescue" the struggling company by bought 60% of its shares. And in 2003, Storck Products Incorporated had became "SPI Corporation" with its original German logo replaced with the initials "SPI" in most of its products. Other products like Durchbeisser toffee, and Riesen Schoko were discontinued and instead Filipino-based products took place of it such as those of "Chubby" (although Lipps was created during the Storck era.).

And as for the menthol candy itself, it continued to be manufactured and sold "from the supermarket down to the ambulant vendor" with its same old customers enjoying it. On the other hand, the original German-made Storck candies (like "Reisen" and "Eukamenthol") are still being sold  through locally-based distributors if not in Duty Free stores like any other imported products.

Ironically, "Eukamenthol" is its German counterpart and it is still wrapped in its old-school "twisted" wrapper. For sure one would ask how Storck in the Philippines forgot improving its products earlier all in spite of its popularity in the 90s leading to a report that almost lose its consumer base.


Personally, Starr tried much to retain its popularity despite changing it's name from its German original (and for sure everyone still called that candy "Storck" instead of "Starr"!). It hath retained its mentholated sweetness, its base, and even its legacy with Rebisco-owned SPI Corporation remembering its past as a once-German owned licensee according to its website.

However, this person also thinks that Storck would have remained still if not for the report or even made an effort to modernise like its German counterpart. Also to think that everyone remembers how German-owned companies are more into quality when it comes to making and promoting its own products.

source: Filipiknow, Manila Standard, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Rebisco