The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear “Screaming Yellow Zonkers” is Charlie & The Chocolate Factory. Then I think of Gene Wilder’s crazy hair and pedo-smile from the movie.

Sadly, Screaming Yellow Zonkers are in no way related to Willy Wonka and his chocolate factory. They are merely a buttery, sugary popcorn snack of which I had never heard before receiving a box in the mail. When one hears of something of which one has never previously heard, the first thing one must do is Google it. Upon searching the Google, I found the Wikipedia entry for Screaming Yellow Zonkers, which expanded my knowledge of Zonkers to heretofore unreached heights.

According to Wikipedia, which I always trust 100% (not a joke), Zonkers were first made in the 60’s. They had a black box covered in funky blurbs, like this gem:

Open the top, and turn the box upside down. If the Zonkers fall out, this is the bottom. If they fall up, this is the top. If nothing happens, this box is empty.

Zonkers were created as a peanut-less alternative to sweet popcorn treats like Cracker Jack, Fiddle Faddle, and Poppycock. Unfortunately for those hardcore Zonkers fans (of which there are plenty), ConAgra Foods acquired the original producer, Lincoln Snacks, in 2007 and SYZs were discontinued.

But for those fans, I have some wonderful news: Screaming Yellow Zonkers are making a comeback. Starting May 15, SYZs will be sold at Walgreen’s stores nationwide. My sources tell me that a 3-ounce box will go for one measly dollar. Of course, this is only a “reunion tour,” so you’d better get a shopping cart full. It’s like I’ve never said: one can never have too many Zonkers.

So they sent me a box of this “crispy butter-glazed popcorn snack” to try for myself. I got limited edition box #3 of 4, which obviously means that’s the best one. My expectation was that SYZs would be pretty good; it’s kind of tough to screw up popcorn with butter and sugar. Plus I liked the no peanuts thing. Nothing against peanuts, but they need to get the hell out of popcorn and snack mixes.

I popped open the box, put it up to my nose and BAM, super strong butter smell. And these Zonkers are definitely screaming yellow, almost unnaturally so.

When I first tasted a piece, I was not a fan. The coating, which is primarily butter and sugar, was far too rich. They had gone overboard with the butter, in my opinion. But as I continued to eat it, I liked it more and more. Soon enough, the box was empty. I’m not sure what happened. I still didn’t really like it, at least I didn’t think I did, but I couldn’t stop eating it.

The glaze is very crunchy and sweet, always good things for snacking. The problem was butter. The whole time I was eating the Zonkers I couldn’t help but wish it was caramel corn. It was tantalizingly close to being caramel corn, but it missed by a hair.

I can’t say I’ll ever eat Screaming Yellow Zonkers again, but at the very least I like their style. I like the packaging, I like the name, and I like that they’re unique and proud of it. But as far as the flavor, I’d rather have caramel corn. Nonetheless, I can think of a lot of good reasons to buy some Zonkers on May 15. You like butter, a lot. You used to eat SYZs and missed them while they were gone. You’ve never had them, but you’re curious. Or maybe you think the boxes are just so cute! In any case, you should give them a try. You’ll be better for it.

9 Responses

  1. Kayla

    I loooved this stuff when I was little. I’ll have to pick up a box and see if I still like them.

  2. tru leigh

    As soon as I heard that SYZ were back I made a beeline for my nearest WalG. They had nuttin’. Had no idea what I was talking about, the poor, demented fools.

    On the way back, I had occasion to stop at my friendly, neighborhood 99 Cent Only Store. I thought I could quench my desire for the golden yellow snacks with the pale subsitute kettle corn. When, behind a aisle display of pork rinds, there they were! A shaft of florescent light shined down upon them. I pretty sure I heard angels sing. They had 12 boxes. I bought them all. I’m tpying this wtih one hnad while eatnig them as we spaek.

    I’m not above driving to every 99Cent store in a 50 month radius to buy every box I can before they are gone, gone again. So what if I won’t be able to make my rent? We are talking Sreaming Yellow Zonkers, for crying out loud!

  3. Allan Katz

    Hi. I’m Allan Katz, the creator of Zonkers, the original boxes, the Circus Poster, the commercial referenced here as well as the voice on the spot. I’ve tried for years to get Conagra to allow me to update the box and reissue Zonkers. They never had the courtesy of returning a phone call or an email. Compare the new copy and illustrations with the original box or the Circus Box and poster and you’ll see a huge difference.


    I grew up eating zonkers and love the taste of this popcorn nothing compares they are the best!!!

  5. Michael

    A half hour ago my pregnant wife, who was quite pissed at me, told me she had a craving for screaming yellow zonkers. She last had them a few years ago when I found 2 boxes for sale online and ordered them for a special occasion. She quickly found them on Amazon for $10 for a 3 oz. box. Needless to say, that wasn’t going to happen.

    I did some more searching, found this blog post about Wallgreens selling them. Having one just down the street, I immediately had to “check the mail.”

    Unable to locate them in the snack isle, I thought I would have to placate her with some fiddle faddle. On the way out, passing through the candy isle, there they were. A little black box of redemption! I grabbed a couple of boxes and made for the counter. Remembering the Amazon price, I promptly grabbed a basket and looted the other 10 boxes from the shelf.

    I surprised her upon my return, shocked at the few boxes I gave her, the ones angry wife is now as happy as can be!

    I know they will come in handy, and since she’s pregnant, it will be sooner rather than later. The remainder have been secreted away for such a time.

  6. Kim

    What can I say ZONKERS! I love them! Ever since my aunt gave me some when I was 5, I’m 44 now. Found a bunch at my 99 cent store and bought 10 boxes and hid them under my bed. I have 8 boxes left and am scared I’ll run out. ConAgra get with it and crank these puppies out so I can treat myself every day with a box!!

  7. Margo

    Oh my goodness I knew nothing about Zonkers coming back. imagine my shock ,joy and excitement. Today I was in the 99 cent only store.
    Heading towards the produce I see a misplaced little black box on the shelf I knew what it was immediately. I wanted to scream and run from one end of the store to the other.Divine intervention.I grabbed it and just stood there and stared at it. There was a beam of light shining down on me and the box, I heard singing and a harp. I snapped out of it sent a text to my brothers and sisters letting them know Screaming Yellow Zonkers are back. I then went up and down the isles until I found them. I only got 4 boxes 3 of the 4 in the series. I should have cleaned the shelves. I’m going back tomorrow…To buy them all.Like others said who knows when we’ll see them again. What a wonderful day!!!!!

  8. Jodi

    So there I was…walking the aisles of my local Walgreens, waiting for my daughter to make her purchases at the end of a long shopping day. Suddenly, it seemed the entire store went dark, save for a shining golden light reflecting upon a familiar friend from my past. Its black box and familiar yellow and red letters made my heart leap and my mouth water. The angels sang their songs of hope and joy. I was once again reunited with a long-lost love—Screaming Yellow Zonkers. You can imagine my teenage daughters absolute and complete horror when I shared my enthusiasm. Perhaps if I HADN’T turned to find her, clutching two boxes in my trembling hands and squealed loud enough to alert the pharmacist four aisles away. Maybe, just maybe, she wouldn’t have slinked away to the cosmetics counter avoiding my now frenzied gaze. So be it. More for me. At 5/$5, it was hard not to buy the entire shelf. I Tweeted my joy! I FB’ed my happiness! I have a ConAgra plant not too far from me, and I seroiously considered sending them flowers as a gesture of my gratitude…

  9. Jay Jay Mann

    We had a SYZ orgy on our Navy destroyer in the early 1970’s. I had a 3 box a day habit. Our department brought 3 cases on board, hid them under the false deck in our space and sold them. We were our biggest customers so our plans to make money went away as fast as the boxes of Zonkers. The box I remember had a white background and the graphics looked like they were done by Peter Max.


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