The PayDay has always been a dark horse among candy bars. It sits on the lower tiers of the candy rack, down with Whatchamacallit and Oh Henry instead of near the top with Snickers, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and Kit Kat. You can’t always find it in a vending machine. It never shows up in cross-promotions like McFlurries or Blizzards the way the superstars do, and it’s not readily available in the “fun” size for trick-or-treating or the office candy bowl. It’s simple, just peanuts and caramel smushed together, like a high-calorie, low-performing granola bar. And crucially, historically it’s one of the only candy bars that wasn’t covered in chocolate.
Still, I liked the PayDay. It had a certain subtlety to it, just two elements, both of which I happened to like. This simplicity is probably owing to its Depression-era origins: it was first produced in 1932 and, according to legend, got its name because everyone was uninspired and it happened to be pay day. After several candy company mergers and acquisitions, it became part of the Hershey’s stable in 1996. Hershey’s made several attempts to make PayDay cool: there was a honey-roasted limited edition and a bulked-up PayDay Pro energy bar. At one point, the company resorted to outright bribery: each PayDay bar came wrapped up with a shiny new nickel, a revival of a promo from the olden days. Still, rumors persisted that PayDay had disappeared forever. The best thing that the Hershey’s marketing team could say about it was to call it the “hardest working candy bar.” (Talk about a backhanded compliment!)
This summer, though, Hershey’s has decided to give some love to its neglected treasure. The Chocolatey PayDay is here! It’s almost exactly the same as the OG PayDay except that—you guessed it—it comes enrobed in a coating of milk chocolate. Hershey’s website compares this to putting a new coat of paint on a classic car. Except... the Chocolatey Avalanche PayDay made its debut in 2007 and quickly disappeared. Well, never mind. Everything old is new again, especially the sweet-and-salty flavor combo.
I don’t remember the Chocolatey Avalanche PayDay, so I can’t tell you how the Chocolatey PayDay compares. I can say that it is very sweet, almost cloying. The caramel, as in the non-chocolate PayDay, is crumbly, more like nougat. But if you get lucky, you’ll get a bite in which you can clearly taste the roasted, salted peanuts, and it will be delicious, more natural and less aggressive than Reese’s-style peanut butter. I wish the Chocolatey PayDay had gone in harder on the saltiness for a real salty caramel effect, and maybe tried coating it in dark chocolate, too.
But also: it’s a PayDay. It’s a candy bar, still one of the most glorious of American inventions that you can buy for less than $2. If you happen to stumble across it, give it a try.