The Mystery Dum Dums Flavor

Mar 17, 2017


What inspires you? For me it’s traveling to a new place, encountering a really tough challenge at work, and Beyoncé. For Ohio’s Spangler Candy Company, the manufacturers of Dum Dums lollipops since 1953, the answer seems to be inefficiency, or perhaps a simple aversion to cleaning.

As a kid, I was a big fan of the Mystery FlavorTM Dum Dums lollipop. According to the company’s website, “The Mystery Flavor is a secret. We can only reveal that the Mystery Flavor continuously changes and is not limited to current Dum Dums flavors[1]” I was always drawn to the allure of the Mystery Flavor and imagined that I was enjoying an exotic option that would only be available for a limited time. Was it Pineapple? Cherry-Watermelon-Apple? The options were endless! Turns out, I’m the sucker (cheesy pun intended).

I recently came across some investigative journalism conducted by the website mental_floss[2] According to mental_floss:

“The Mystery Flavor pop is a mixture of two flavors that come together when the end of one batch of candy meets the beginning of the next batch. Rather than shutting down to clean out the candy equipment between flavors, Spangler turned lemons into lemonade and made pops out of the combination of flavors – the tail end of the old, and the beginning of the new. The candy lines keep running continuously, and the Mystery Flavor pops are a surprise treat every time.”

My reaction to this news was predictable outrage, “Wait, what?! You mean to tell me that my favorite Dum Dums flavor is just a marketing ploy to simplify and expedite the candy production process?” Yup. And Santa Claus isn’t real either.

After overcoming my initial shock and dismay, I began to really admire the brilliance of the Spangler Candy Company. They were able to take an inefficiency in their manufacturing process and transform it into a tremendously successful product innovation. An example of turning lemons into lemonade (or lemon-flavored lollipops) at its finest.

We can all learn something from Spangler. What challenges are we facing in our current job or business? What accepted inefficiencies or slogs can we turn into advantages? Instead of focusing on solving our problems in the traditional sense, it’s worth spending a few minutes thinking about how we can create unique value propositions or other opportunities.

Thanks to Spangler, I’m personally committed to approaching my daily challenges by looking for inspiration. Except for long lines at my favorite coffee shop. There’s nothing inspiring about that.

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