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Nerds are a form of candy currently sold by Nestlé under their Willy Wonka Candy Company brand. Nerds are small irregularly-shaped bits of sugar crystal (similar to rock candy) which are covered with a thin candy-coating. Nerds are produced in a variety of colors and flavors and are usually sold in a box that has two flavors separated into distinct compartments, each with its own opening mechanism. Nerds are anthropomorphized on the cover of its distinctive box package. Larger-sized packages have been produced with an assortment of colors, sometimes branded "Rainbow Nerds".
Nerds were first launched in 1983 by Angelo Fraggos, who was brand manager, eventually becoming vice president of marketing and technical services until he left in 1992. Robert Schuppan led his team with the product development and commercialization of Nerds. Nerds was named the "Candy of the Year" in 1985 by the National Candy Wholesalers Association (NCWA).
The main ingredients in Nerds are dextrose, sugar and malic acid. The tiny candies also contain less than two percent of ingredients such as corn syrup, carnauba wax, and artificial flavors and colors.
Nerds are of varied flavors and color, ranging from extremely sweet to extremely sour; often the two flavours in one box will contrast, and a single flavor may even exhibit both extremes. They are thickly glazed with carnauba wax, which gives them a hard bite and a gloss. The nucleus of each candy is composed of one or more complete sucrose crystals. These optically clear monoclinic crystals are about 0.2–1 mm in length and help define the irregular shape.
A Nerds breakfast cereal based on this concept appeared in the 1980s, but had a short life.
Some of the regular flavors of Nerds sold today are:
- Strawberry and Grape (pink and purple)
- Wild Cherry and Watermelon (orange or red and green)
- Double Dipped Lemonade-Wild Cherry and Apple-Watermelon (red and yellow)
- Sour-Lightning Lemon and Amped Apple (yellow and light green)
- Surf 'n Turf- Totally Tropical Punch and Road Rash Raspberry (red and blue)
- Wildberry and Peach (blue and orange)
There are many other flavors available.
There are also several Nerds spin-off products by Willy Wonka:
- Sour Nerds are normal sized Nerds, usually come in Lightning Lemon and Amped Apple, and are in a regular box. Also, a second flavor with Shocking Strawberry and Electric Blue was released.
- Giant Chewy Nerds have a chewy jelly bean center with a bumpy, crunchy nerd shell. They are the same product as the jellybeans, but available year-round. Also known as "Future Nerds".
- Nerds Rope consists of gummy string with a variety of Nerds attached to the outside. It comes in original, berry and tropical flavors.
- Rainbow Nerds is a box of regular Nerds of multiple flavors, with no partition or organization.
- Jumbo Nerds is a box of Nerds of multiple flavors which are much larger than regular Nerds. The box depicts one jumbo nerd on a teeter-totter with several regular sized nerds trying to counter its weight.
- Nerds Gum Balls are bubble gum balls filled with multiple flavors of Nerds on the inside.
- Theme Nerds are sometimes manufactured seasonally for holidays such as Halloween or Valentine's Day with names such as "Spooky Nerds". Flavors can include fruit punch, strawberry, and orange.
- Nerds Cereal, a now discontinued breakfast cereal that, like the candy, featured two separated flavors to a box. The cereal came with a mail-in offer for a Nerds cereal bowl, which also could be divided in two like a standard Nerds box.
- Techno-Nerds, a lesser-known variety, was composed of three compartments; green, blue, yellow, and multicolored.
- Nerds Gum consisted of pieces that looked like regular Nerds, but were actually bubble gum. The box featured a Nerd floating away with a bubble gum bubble.
- Dweebs, now discontinued, were a soft, chewy version of Nerds released in the mid-1990s, that contained three separate flavors rather than two. Dweebs were available only for a short time.
- Neon Nerds were introduced in 1996 and came in Pinktricity and Electro Orange flavours. They are still sold in Australia and New Zealand.
- Nerd Jelly Beans, produced for Easter, are jelly beans with a coating of carnauba wax, which makes them taste like Nerds.
- Wonkalate, A UK-only chocolate bar which, aside from being purple unlike regular chocolate bars, had snozzberry-flavored Nerds put into it.
Throughout the 1980s several new flavors of Nerds were introduced from time to time; for example, "Hot and Cold" Nerds (cinnamon & wintergreen flavored), Blueberry and Raspberry, and Lemon and Lime.