Matthew Labul finds the chocolate-covered prunes of Poland delicious. But when he and his brother Eric launched The International Junk Food of the Month Club in 1996, they didn't put prunes on the lineup due to their use-as-needed stigma in America. Who knew snacks were worth such scrutiny?
The brothers Labul knew. Snacks, after all, are their calling. Consider the origins of their New York City company, World Candy Store: While in the Navy, Eric, 33, sampled junk food around the globe. Back home in New York, Matthew, 32, worked as an advertising copywriter (and still does). Sense the winning combination?
To find worthy snacks, the brothers scouted grocery stores in local ethnic neighborhoods. "We'd bring [our findings] home and have a massive taste test and a gallon of water," says Matthew. The criteria: must not taste like an American snack; must have sealed packaging; must not be so foreign-tasting Americans won't like it.
Their efforts--perhaps fueled by snack-induced hyperactivity?--paid off. Advertising in high-end magazines such as Bon Appetit and The New Yorker (clearly, this is no ordinary junk food), World Candy Store has built a mailing list nearly 27,000 strong. For monthly fees starting at $19.99, customers can sample the "chosen" junk foods of countries ranging from Switzerland to Trinidad and Tobago. For those who can't commit, onetime gift packs are also available.
What fare do the Labuls favor? Matthew prefers Japan's snacks and misses its now-discontinued strawberry-flavored chocolate-covered raisins. Eric finds happiness in ZagZag--a chunky Japanese cookie stick. Whatever your favorite, go ahead and munch, encourages Matthew: "As long as you brush your teeth, you'll be fine."