Grand Ole Goo Goo Sweetens Fans Old And New

Play associated audio

No one's entirely sure where the Southern treat called the Goo Goo Cluster got its name.

The iconic candy from Nashville, Tenn., celebrates its 100th birthday this year. The confection of marshmallow, peanuts and caramel wrapped in milk chocolate may owe its longevity in part to another Nashville icon: the Grand Ole Opry.

Goo Goo Cluster sponsored the venue's radio broadcasts from 1966 until 2006. In one popular advertisement, stage performers crooned, "Go get a Goo Goo ... it's gooooooood!"

The gooey sweet was advertised so heavily on air through those decades that many people believed "Goo" was an acronym for Grand Ole Opry.

While the true origins of the candy's name remain a mystery, one thing is certain: Goo Goo sales have tumbled in recent years while its manufacturer was focused on other products. Now, Standard Candy Co. is making a big effort to bring the gooey classic back.

These days, Standard Candy is on the road, passing out free samples of its signature candy at events across the South. At a recent convention in Nashville, Vance Sensing stopped to grab a Goo Goo and re-live the taste of his childhood.

"My grandfather had a country store, and I worked for him a lot of weekends," Sensing said. "For pay, he would always let me choose a candy and a Coke, and Goo Goo was one of 'em — one of my favorites."

Convention-goer Heather Cunningham, a 30-something mom with several kids in tow, also stopped for a taste of nostalgia. She hadn't eaten a Goo Goo in years, she said, but remembers how a family friend always had them handy.

"Whenever he would come around, he would always have Goo Goos," Cunningham said. "And me and my twin sister prayed my mom would marry him, 'cause he was the candy man. He always had them candy, and we was like, 'Momma, you really need to marry this man!"

In an effort to reach younger consumers, Standard's made a few changes in the kitchen. It has taken hydrogenated oils out of the recipe and greened the production process.

Brand manager Lance Paine has even created an iPhone app called the "Goo Goo Finder."

"You hit this button here, and up pops your location," Paine demonstrates. "Then you'll see these different flags that are on the map, showing you where your closest Goo Goo retailer is."

One thing Paine won't be changing is the candy bar's deep connection to the South.

"For whatever reason, there seems to be this sort of Southern food zeitgeist that's happening right now," Paine says. "Everyone wants to be from the South."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Aviator Beryl Markham Soars Again In 'Paris Wife' Author's New Book

"It is my fate to illuminate the lives of these one-of-a-kind notable women that have been somehow forgotten by history," says Paula McClain. She shines her spotlight on Markham in Circling the Sun.
NPR

At The Purple Pie Place, Where The Crusts Are Just Sweet Enough

Bobkat's Purple Pie Place is a fixture in Custer, S.D. From chicken pot pie to strawberry rhubarb, Trevor Yehlie and his family have been baking and serving pies at the local favorite since 2009.
NPR

SuperPACs Report Their Funds — And The Numbers Are Staggering

SuperPACs released their latest funding numbers Friday, and already it's clear that the committees' roles in 2016 will be gargantuan.
NPR

Despite Host Controversy, Amazon Takes A Chance On 'Top Gear'

The trio that made Top Gear the world's biggest car show will return to the small screen in a new show for Amazon Prime. The BBC canned one of its hosts last year after a fight with a producer.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.