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6 Classic South African Movie Snacks Ranked

The United States probably has the widest selection of movie snacks to pick from... after all that's where Hollywood is based, right? Cookie dough bites, M&Ms, Reese's Pieces, soft pretzels, gummy bears, Skittles, Junior Mints, Twizzlers, Sno-Caps, Milk Duds, pizza, nachos, hot dogs and chips may rate high on the list, but what about South African movie goer tastes? Having been to the cinema on many occasions, there are some distinct differences between what you can and can't eat in a local cinema.

Most of these choices have been dictated by the bigger cinema chains who tailor popcorn and soda fountain combos with a few featured chocolates or sweet treats. South Africans have a sweet tooth and when it comes to movie night... it's absolute carnage, a place where you definitely don't want to run into your dentist. Sweets from Heaven or Hell, here are some of the most popular movie treats in South Africa, which often accompany combo deals to lure people into paying Astro-nomical prices... get it? Astro... never mind.

popcorn movie snack

1. Popcorn

When it comes to watching movies, there's nothing quite as iconic as popcorn. Quite easily the #1 movie snack, it's become inextricably linked with the act of going to the movies. Whether we've been indoctrinated to just link popcorn and movies or it just makes sense, one of the cheapest and easy-to-produce confectionery stand items remains steadfast. Being healthier than other snacks (depending on how heavily you sprinkle), popcorn is quick, easy and fun. You may only really taste the first and last mouthful or finish your box before the movie even starts, but it seems popcorn will continue to pop as long as cineplexes continue to screen movies.

Dressing it up in your favourite sprinkle or just going for plain salt, this old favourite seems destined to remain. Remember not to inhale the salt and vinegar sprinkle. For those who are finding popcorn to be more of the same... why not mix things up with some Tabasco hot sauce instead of sprinkle or add some Astros or Smarties into the mix. If you're unlucky enough to sit next to someone who crunches their popcorn loudly with their mouth wide open, you may wish that cinemas revisited the viability of this classic snack in a bucket. Although it's much easier to beat 'em by joining them with your own loud munching. Turn it into a competition.

2. Chocolate Balls with a Honeycomb Centre (Whispers or Chuckles)

If you want a delicious chocolate treat look no further than honeycomb-centred Whispers. These melt-in-your-mouth favourites have had staying power because they seem to be one step ahead of the pack. Typically more expensive than most sweet treats at the stand, they're a real spoil. A great option to share for date night or simply indulge in for a sugar rush during movie night with your friends, Whispers have been a hit since the very beginning.

Woolworths created their version of malted puffs called Chuckles, which is... and it's no secret - basically a Whisper. At some point, Woolworths were so gosh-darn exclusive they didn't stock generic brand chocolates. They had their own version of pretty much everything. Maybe this gave them exclusive licence to do whatever they please, in most cases not quite hitting the mark. Realising that the other guys were blasting the bliss point with more accuracy... and the old adage "why reinvent the wheel" - they caved. However, Chuckles - a thing all Woolworths customers will be familiar with - are devilishly good. Served in mostly big packs, they're the more approachable and cheerful honeycomb-centred chocolate ball. Be warned - if you open either a packet of Chuckles or Whispers - chances are, you will finish it singlehandedly whatever the size!

3. Candy-coated Chocolate (Astros or Smarties or M&Ms)

Astros are candy-coated chocolates with a biscuit centre. When they arrived in 1997, Smarties were still top of the pops. However, it wasn't long before the new choc on the block (sorry) had made inroads. Kids love Smarties, which unfortunately did not improve grades automatically as the logo suggested but could serve as a good incentive to do homework. Astros became a cooler option, obviously punting their out-of-this-world taste at a time when The X-Files was still huge and competing when it came to value packs.

Many still prefer the sweet chocolate delight that is Smarties or more recently M&Ms, but the taste sensation of Astros, which features an extra biscuit dimension gives it the edge. The candy-covered snack is still popular, even if not as wild as its heyday when it first arrived with added novelty. Still a main feature with the added benefit of the box design that allows consumers to load up the box's wedge like a construction vehicle, it's a staple in South Africa. Just don't look up shellac, the stuff that gives some candies their shine.

4. Jellies (Wine Gums or Jelly Tots)

France may be asking the rest of the world to cool it with naming their vino after their regions but they're probably not getting as heavy with gelatine-based sweets. Don't worry, these treats are only packed with sugar and not alcohol. Chewy, named after wines and probably trying to unsuccessfully emulate the flavour of their namesakes, Wine Gums have been a staple of cinema-going in South Africa for many years.

Originally packed in a box, these sweets were regarded as a classy option when it came to loading up at the confectionery stand. While the jelly sweets have dropped the box they're still a firm favourite. They're deliciously fragrant, more-ish and soft enough to avoid becoming a nuisance to others around you if you don't jiggle the packet too loudly. A great choice for date night and people wishing to eat in a polite fashion, wine gums are a cinema classic.

Jelly Tots are more playful sugar-coated jellies. Maybe it's their size or that they're often associated with kids, but these little jellies are a nostalgic treat that few would refuse if offered twice. It's a bit tricky buying them as a self-respecting full-grown adult but once the bag's open... anything goes. The alternative to Smarties for a long time, these fun little sugary jellies haven't changed much at all over the years... besides the packaging.

smarties movie snack

5. Chocolate Bars and Slabs (Pretty Much Whatever's Available)

Having a wide selection of chocolate bars and slabs in South Africa, you'll only realise just how spoiled you are if and when you visit another country (not the US). Somehow it's become a tradition or socially acceptable en masse for chocolate bars to line check outs at all major supermarkets. To say you have at least 10 options on the counter lines is an understatement. This means that we've almost got too many chocolates to mention as favourites... there's even a selection called Favourites!

So under this grouping, it's whatever the cinema chain is offering. Lunch Bar, Dairy Milk, Snickers, Bubbly... there's a wide array of chocolate bars and slabs that make their way into combo deals. There's no standard in this category as long as it's chocolatey. While Beacon and Nestle is seen as a step below Cadbury's in the cheap and cheerful chocolate slab game, its said that blind taste tests are much trickier to separate one from another. Challenge accepted? Either way you look at it... chocolate is chocolate. Even more so in the days before palm oil became so prolific.

6. Hot Food (Pizza and Nachos)

South Africa has tried to go down the nachos and pizza route when it comes to cinema snacks but they haven't quite taken off. Perhaps it's the cheesiness that has exhibitors a bit worried with trying to clean cinemas in-between screenings. There must be nothing worse than sliding your hand over the arm rest in the dark not to find someone else's arm lingering but a gooey non-descript residue. Some have managed to smuggle entire takeaway orders into cinemas but it really comes down to just how inconsiderate the food you're consuming will be for the rest of the audience.

As spacious as it may be, it's a closed room and exotic smells tend to travel. We know why seafood doesn't make it onto the menu for movie snacks but it seems there have been some gravitation to canapes... especially with the fancy pants VIP screenings where you can have your selection of snacks brought to you while you recline in an over-sized chair.

Food for thought... is all this salt and sugar good for us? What are healthier movie snack alternatives? Is munching on a carrot really going to beat all of the above? Have you ever watched a movie without swinging past the sugar rush kiosk? Why doesn't glue stick to the inside of its tube? Check out our article on 10 rules to make movie-going great again!