Unusual food combos have become more popular, as companies and brands seek to capture the changing tastes and fickle attentions of consumers. But not every flavor innovation is going to reach the heights of the cronut, the croissant/donut mashup that Time hailed as one of 2013’s best inventions. Some food revolutions won’t catch on, and some ideas will be just plain disgusting. Below are 10 that fall into the latter category—gross combinations the world would be better off without.
10. Bacon Toothpaste
We’re not saying bacon isn’t delicious—it is. We’re not saying we don’t want to greet the day with the sweet/salty/fat flavor that only bacon can impart—we do. But we are saying that bacon toothpaste is not the way we want to have that experience. The company that produces the “toothpaste that makes your breath bacon fresh” touts that it offers, “the perfect way to keep your teeth and gums healthy while coating your mouth with the delicious flavor of smoky meat!” True die-hard bacon afficianados may be pleased the company also offers bacon floss, so that your entire oral care routine can incorporate bacon, though they may be crushed to learn that the toothpaste doesn’t contain any actual bacon.
Reviews of the product suggest that it is mainly purchased as a gag gift, and seems to serve that purpose pretty well, though some people seem to find the smell and taste too bacon-y, while others wish it was even stronger. “Is there anything bacon can’t improve?”, the company’s website asks. We’d have to say yes, and that thing is toothpaste.
9. Seafood Ice Cream
Millions of American children grew up with Fudgie the Whale, the iconic mascot and signature ice cream cake of the Carvel ice cream company. But in Japan, the ice cream might actually contain actual whale, or some other form of seafood. Though seafood consumption in Japan has fallen since 2000, the country’s residents still consume more fish than those of many other countries—an average of 27 kg a person in 2014 (compared to global per-capita average annual fish consumptions of 20 kg).
While some of the bounty of Japan’s over $11 billion/year fishing industry finds its way into the country’s famed sushi restaurants and other traditional seafood dishes, some of it ends up in ice cream options that sound, at best…unusual. Flavors include squid, shrimp, salt fish, and shark’s fin. Small-batch local offerings depend on the quality and availability of the local seafood, but depending on where in Japan you find yourself, you could enjoy….or, ummm…try eel, octopus, crab or sea urchin flavored ice cream. And when an influx of massive jellyfish hit Japan in 2009, one dairy company patriotically offered vanilla-and-jellyfish ice cream, which was described as “slightly chewy.” We’ll pass, thanks.
8. Candy Corn Oreos
Has anyone really ever said, “I can’t get enough candy corn! I wish there were more opportunities to enjoy candy corn! I’m sad more things don’t have the taste and appearance of candy corn!”? We don’t think so. For most of us, the only good part of this so-called candy that looks—and tastes–like a mash-up of dye and plastic is that we only have avoid its unwelcome presence in the candy bowl once a year. So what could be worse than candy corn? Candy corn getting its orange, yellow, and white clutches on otherwise enjoyable snack items!
Kraft’s Nabisco brand apparently decided that its Oreo, an unhealthy, but generally beloved cookie, needed a “Halloween makeover.” Instead of just, you know, making the cream filling orange or something, it produced the abomination known as the Candy Corn Oreo. These limited edition (thank goodness!) Oreos (not that they really deserve to call themselves Oreos!) feature vanilla cookies sandwiching candy corn filling that is half fluorescent orange and half yellow, capturing all the artificial color and flavor of an ordinary candy corn. One unlucky NPR reporter, who was tasked with reviewing this flavor put it best: “When I eat regular Oreos, I want a glass of milk. When I eat these, I want a glass of poison.” Nabisco, we’ll admit that the Double Stuf Oreo is decadent, but delicious. We’ll even grudgingly tolerate the presence of the Candy Cane Oreo you sometimes trot out for the holidays. But when you decide that the world needs the Candy Corn Oreo, you have gone TOO FAR.
7. Cheetos Macaron
This flavor “innovation” combines two foods that are each pretty good on their own into a gross fusion food that will give your taste buds nightmares. The Cheetos Macaron is the brainchild of Simon Tung and Christina Ha, who own New York City’s Macaron Parlor. As with the Candy Corn Oreo, apparently Halloween is to blame for the existence of this combo.
According to the origin story, in October of 2012, Ha (somehow) came into possession of some Cheetos dust. Already, this story sounds pretty suspect; who just happens to have Cheetos dust? But then, the tale takes an even weirder turn: Ha inexplicably decides that the perfect home for this mysteriously orphaned Cheetos dust is in a macaron! She creates a day-glo orange Cheetos-infused cookie, lightly dusted with Cheetos dust. Adding insult to injury, the white chocolate ganache filling is also infused with, you guessed it, Cheetos dust. Unsurprisingly, the bakery owners report that the flavor is polarizing—“a popular conversation starter, but not one of our top flavors.” We’re guessing that a lot of those conversations focus on, “Whhhhhyyyyy,” “How could you,” and “Please God, NO!”
6. Slurpee Donut
We will admit our culinary expectations for 7-Eleven are not high. It’s a convenience store, after all. Its regular food offerings–sad taquitos making endless rotations on grease rollers and pizza that maintains its shape, and grim vigil, seemingly for weeks at a time—don’t exactly inspire confidence, let alone foodie dreams. But this province of snacks destined to be consumed only by drunken frat boys in a 3:00 AM haze was the evil we knew. What we didn’t know was that there was the possibility of something even worse lurking out there on the 7-Eleven food horizon—the Wild Cherry Slurpee Donut.
Just try to say “Slurpee Donut” aloud without shuddering involuntary. Yep, you can’t. But that didn’t stop the good people at 7-Eleven from dreaming it up and putting it into production. Finally, a product for all the folks out there who ever sucked down a Slurpee and thought “Darn! That just felt too…healthy!” or “Gosh, what that needed was more sugar. A lot more sugar!” As part of a limited-time promotion, 7-Eleven rolled out a product that the world wishes it had never seen–the Wild Cherry Slurpee Donut, a pink cake donut flecked with bits of cherry and topped with wild-cherry icing and pink sugar crystals that are intended to add an “ice-like crunch.” One Washington Post review declared that the donut offered the “eau de Robitussin” flavor of a traditional Slurpee, and noted the icing was “particularly antiseptic,” but also said, “You kind of have to admire the reckless stoner abandon of the concept.” No, no we don’t.
5. Pork Ramen Candy
Ahhh, the comfort of a nice hot bowl of ramen on a cold winter’s day. The only problem with ramen is that it’s not super-portable. One company in Japan has figured out a way to solve this problem. If you are picturing some sort of Thermos for soup-on-the-go, sadly, this isn’t the solution they came up with. Instead, the company is offering hard candy that tastes like pork ramen.
How the heck did this happen? Nissen, a mail-order company in Japan, teamed up with the Pine Co. candy company to sponsor a contest where customers proposed new candy flavors. Out of the approximately 6,000 contest entries, contest judges selected “tonkatsu ramen” as the winner, apparently because it was “bold and innovative.” Maybe future judges should assign a lower rating to “bold” and a higher rating to “appetizing” in evaluating contest entries going forward? Or maybe the judges knew their audience; the initial run of the candy, which is available through Nissen’s website for about $3/pack, sold out immediately. One possible explanation for the candy’s popularity: the candies look like any other hard candy, so they are ideal for pranking anyone expecting their sweets to be…not gross.
4. Chocolate-Covered Squid
Hey, we love chocolate as much as anyone (probably more). But it does seem like this zeal for dipping everything and anything in chocolate is getting a little out of control. Chocolate-covered liquorice or chocolate-dipped gummy bears wouldn’t be among our top choices for chocolate consumption vectors, but they have their enthusiasts. And we’d be tempted to say, “To each his own,” but that’s how the world ends up with chocolate-covered squid.
Technically, the product, which is offered by Hawaii’s Big Island Candies isn’t actually squid. Don’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet, though. It’s actually ika, a local Hawaiian snack of dried, seasoned cuttlefish strips (basically, really stinky squid jerky), which the company’s employees painstakingly coat with chocolate. Some candy stores offers windows through which you can watch taffy being pulled or caramel apples being dipped. Big Island Candies offers the chance to watch dried squid go for a chocolate bath. A 3 oz. bag of the stuff will cost you $8.75, plus the inescapable pain of knowing that you voluntary consumed chocolate-covered squid. Proving that some folks will eat anything, the company’s owner says the product has been “extremely well-received” and notes “there are times during the year…where we can barely keep it on the shelf.” Ugh. We can barely keep this one in our imaginations, let alone in our stomachs.
3. Bubble-Gum Flavored String Cheese
Cheese is pretty delicious as it is. Does cheese really need any more “innovations” to become more appealing? The folks at the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research seem to think so, but if the “fun flavors” they are devising for string cheese are any indication, we don’t want any of the monstrosities this lab of horrors is creating!
The first targets for this frankencheese are the young. In an effort to make string cheese more “kid-friendly” (because apparently there’s a big group of kids none of us have ever met out there balking at regular ol’ string cheese), researchers produced string cheese in a range of revolting-sounding flavors, including green apple, banana, cotton candy, and bubble gum. Additionally, colors were added to the milk to make the cheese “vibrant.” Luckily, this revolutionary string cheese doesn’t seem to have made it beyond the testing phase…yet (which is why we’re unable to track down any actual photographic evidence of it, which is probably by design). One master cheesemaker who has had the opportunity to try the string cheese described it as “quite good,” saying that, “It combines ‘sweet and salty’ which is a very popular combination in snack foods right now.” Um. No. We hate to be buzzkills, but if your buzz involves cotton candy string cheese, it probably has it coming. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that the world at large never needs to know the horrors of vibrant-colored bubble gum-flavored cheese. Think of the children.
2. Fried Chicken Nail Polish
Yes, this is a thing. No, we can’t believe it either. Apparently, seeking to underscore how “finger-lickin’ good” the company’s fried chicken is, KFC’s Hong Kong operation launched nail polish that tastes like KFC fried chicken. Let’s all let this one sink in for a minute. Somehow, somewhere, marketing folks out there thought, “Hey, you know what will get people to buy our chicken? Nail polish that tastes like our chicken!” And no one stood up and said “No!” or “Eww!” or even “Maybe let’s just try giving out some samples of the chicken first?”
Launching fried-chicken flavored nail polish wasn’t just a whimsical spur-of-the-moment thing—it was a serious process. KFC’s ad agency, Ogilvy & Mather, worked with the McCormick spice company, which supplies KFC’s secret recipe of herbs and spices, to get the polish to taste and smell just right. That’s right. Some poor food scientist at McCormick was forced to concoct chicken-flavored nail polish. The formula is made of all-natural ingredients, so you can lick the polish, which is available in “Original” and “Hot and Spicy” flavors, to your heart’s content. John Koay, who heads up KFC’s Hong Kong marketing, described the impulse behind the campaign, saying, “It made total sense to be at the end of everyone’s fingertips.” To which we say: Not like this, KFC. NOT. LIKE. THIS.
1. Doritos Mountain Dew
Since PepsiCo owns a number of food and beverage brands, it was only a matter of time before they started looking at crossover opportunities. And the link between the target audience for Doritos and Mountain Dew is pretty clear—both target young men who are seeking “ extreme” (meaning highly artificial and unhealthy) flavor experiences. And if you look carefully at the growing relationship between the two brands, you can see signs of the horrors to come. In 2008, the company offered Doritos Quest, Doritos chips coated with a sweet mystery flavor that was later revealed to be Mountain Dew. And in early 2014, the brands collaborated on a promotion tied into the release of a video game in the Call of Duty series.
But even with these signals, the world still wasn’t ready when the company began testing Doritos-flavored Mountain Dew on US college campuses. Because while Mountain Dew-flavored Doritos were unappealing, for some reason, Doritos-flavored Mountain Dew amps up the gross factor to a whole new level. One guinea pig said the soda, “wasn’t that disgusting…It tasted like orange with a Doritos aftertaste.” With that kind of ringing endorsement, we can see why Pepsi apparently didn’t take this combo past the test stage. But don’t be lulled into a false sense of security—the risk that soda that tastes like Doritos could one day invade grocery shelves everywhere is a threat as long as these brands remain under the same corporate umbrella.