Though Americans greedily consume all sorts of German chocolate, one type is strictly off-limits in the USA. Beloved Kinder Surprise (Kinder Überraschung auf Deutsch) is an iconic sweet for German children.
No, Kinder chocolates actually come from an Italian company called Ferrero, possibly better known for their addictive hazelnut spread Nutella (plus other favorites like Ferrero Rocher, Mon Chéri and even Tic Tacs).
The Ferrero family are the chocolate wizards behind the brand. They recognized that German brands catered to adults with their chocolates, but not the children. Pietro Ferrero rectified that oversight with a series of children themed chocolates in the late 1960s. To win over the parents, these lines were made without preservatives or food coloring.
What is a Kinder Surprise?
The fact that Kinder Überraschung are not from Germany has not dampened the country's enthusiasm for the treat. And they aren't alone. Around 40 billion Kinder Surprise have been sold in over 70 countries.
One of its most popular options in Germany, Kinder Surprise is a 20g milk chocolate egg wrapped in colorful foil.
But the chocolate isn't what makes it special. Within this candy shell lies a toy (safely encased in plastic with at least two paper warnings). The toys are continually updated with limited-editions such as the Christmas collection complete with baby Jesus. The tiny paper warnings list the choking hazard in multiple languages as well as assembly instructions.
They may also provide adhesive decals to personalize your toy. The combo of treat and sweet has proven a winner and Kinder Surprise is a favorite for German kids.
The toys have even earned a cult following among adults. Tiny cars and other easily assembled toys have become collectables for a certain set. Especially ardent fans even collect the instruction manuals ("BPZ" or Beipackzettel in German). Just look at online auctions for these items and be amazed. I guess it proves one man's trash is another man's treasure.
Why Kinder Surprise for Easter?
The candy has proved popular year-round, but is especially associated with Easter, perhaps because of its iconic egg shape. The chocolate egg now comes in a variety of sizes from the standard 20 gram to those the size of a baby.
The toy collection is also holiday themed, either for Easter or the many different seasons and holidays.
Why are Kinder Surprise illegal in the USA?
One of the reasons Kinder Surprise have garnered such an infamous reputation in the USA is that they are technically forbidden. Under US federal law, it is illegal to have objects within food products. The toy and paper have been cited as a choking hazard. What makes the chocolate so desirable in Germany, have made them off-limits in the USA.
Even trying to open the company's website on Kinder Surprise comes with protective measures. It took me entering my birth date to gain access to the world of Kinder.
So...are they actually dangerous? The company does acknowledge two fatalities linked to the forbidden treat, but those incidents happened in the 1980s with small parts that are no longer used. Since then it appears children have managed to eat the chocolates and play with the toys without incident.
The toys illegality may change in the future with online petitions showing the will of the people. Ferrero International S.A. has recently said the chocolate egg will be available in the US by the beginning of 2018! However, there is a catch. The product that will be sold is Kinder Joy, where the toy will contained in one half, with chocolate in the other half.
Can you get Kinder Surprise in the USA?
Despite this illicit warning, the chocolate eggs actually aren't a priority for customs. They will be confiscated if discovered (or forfeited) at customs and Kinder Surprise peddlers could be fined, but government agencies have bigger problems. If you are desperate to get a Kinder Surprise into the USA you can probably just pack it in your luggage, but of course we don't recommend any kind of illegal activity.
Another option is to order the treat online. Sites like BuyChocolateEggs.com cater to the Kinder Surprise obsessed around the world (with the customers assuming legal responsibility). It may be easier to just accept an imitator. The Yowie Group now sells chocolate creatures with a toy-filled capsule inside and Choco Treasure even offers an egg-shaped version. Apparently the fact that the toy comes in one piece and a visible plastic ridge between the chocolate halves is evident is enough to keep the FDA off their backs.
If you can't stand anything but the original, there have been reports of finding the forbidden treat of Kinder Surprise in European Markets as well as German and Russian shops. Or just wait til 2018 and enjoy the new treat of Kinder Joy.