Screaming Yellow Zonkers was a snack food, first produced by Lincoln Snacks in the USA in the 1960s. Screaming Yellow Zonkers are popcorn with a yellow sugary glaze, in a black box.
Lincoln Snacks asserts that SYZs were the first food item to be packaged in black. The box contained humorous copy, such as suggestions about what to do with Screaming Yellow Zonkers, or that 8 oz. (226g) = 1/4,409 of a metric ton. (This comic content was provided by Allan Katz and Howie Krakow who wrote the copy on the first several boxes, and the award-winning TV and radio campaigns.) Zonkers were geared toward those who enjoy sweetened popcorn without nuts, as opposed to products like Cracker Jack. Screaming Yellow Zonkers were kosher, but did contain dairy products.
While the front of the package was simple and understated, the rest of the Zonkers box was completely covered with absurdist copy, accompanied by illustrations, informing the reader everything from “how to wash Zonkers” to “how to mate them”. The bottom of the box explained how to determine if it were indeed the bottom: “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.”
World-class illustrators became a part of the Zonkers phenomenon. Airbrush artist Charlie White illustrated the front of the Circus box while Seymour Chwast’s work decorated the rest. White also illustrated a giant Zonkers circus poster, inspired by more of Katz’s copy. The poster was offered on the circus box for “$2.95 to include shipping, handling, and profit.” The circus box ended up being displayed in the Louvre in Paris.
The product was discontinued after ConAgra acquired Lincoln Foods in 2007. However, as of May 2012, Con Agra is producing them on a limited edition basis at Walgreens drug store.
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