There are many New Orleans expatriates located throughout the country. Now a chocolate bunny is one of them. Last Easter season this blog reported that the Merlin’s Chocolate brand had quietly been sold to the R.M. Palmer’s company of Reading, Pennsylvania.
Until then, Merlin’s had been the local bunny. Originally its plant was in Uptown New Orleans; and then, it moved to Elmwood. Most chocolate bunnies look and taste the same, but only Merlin’s could add a tag to the box proclaiming that it was made right here in New Orleans. True to its magician’s name, Merlin’s disappeared in a puff. Ponchatoula-based Elmer Chocolate Company was left as the only local large-scale candy manufacturer. Its products are classics, including the marshmallowy Heavenly Hash, the solid chocolate Gold Brick and the nut-coated Pecan Egg. To add a chocolate bunny to the basket, however, Merlin’s was the only local alternative.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I must report that I recently received two promotional boxes packed with variations of Merlin’s products including the white “Hollow Milk Flavored” bunny and two sizes of the classic “Hollow Milk Chocolate.” Each had a shiny ribbon around its neck and a candy eye.
Gone, of course, were the “Made in New Orleans” tags. Instead there were the messages, “An Easter Favorite Since 1947.” The small print says that the product is distributed by “Merlin Candies of Reading, PA.”
I suppose the Merlin's brand survives for the New Orleans and southern market. Curiously, as I write this, it occurs to me that the Merlin’s bunny originated in the same year as another New Orleans holiday icon, Mr. Bingle. Both were conceived at the peak of the post-war baby boom; both have undergone changes in corporate ownership. Both survive.
Though no longer made here, the Merlin’s bunny should at least be appreciated for its place in local culinary history. Thankfully Elmer Chocolates still remains as a part of the story. That’s worth a ton of Gold Bricks.