Part breath mints and part nose-clearing lozenge, Altoids was invented in the 1780s in England. The high dose of peppermint oil used in “The Curiously Strong Mints,” as the advertising slogan went, was partly aimed at smokers whose taste buds had been blunted by pipe and cigar tobacco. In the U.K., Altoids were eventually manufactured by Callard & Bowser, which licensed it to the Mars subsidiary of the U.S. chewing gum manufacturer Wrigley.
But how to grow a brand known mainly for its anti-halitosis and medicinal properties? Turn it into candy. And that’s what Mars did in 2006, introducing, contrary to logic, a strong breath mint coated in chocolate, manufacturing them in peppermint, ginger, and cinnamon flavors. The new brandlet had bombed by 2010 and been removed from the retail marketplace (though you can still buy a dark chocolate version on Amazon), but not before this series of four amazing TV commercials were introduced in 2007, by turns odd, hilarious, and slightly repulsive.