I like to think that people who go into a state of white-hot rage over a mere lump of candy are doing so in good fun, essentially giving themselves a pressure valve to rant about something trivial instead of the very real threats that actually threaten our existence. (After all, it’s far less scary to think about the candy aisle than it is in our news.)
The best Halloween candy according to our staff
Candy corn producers probably understand that their products suffer from both PR issues and being shoehorned into a single, short season. The ever-expanding genre of flavored candy corn seems to be their handy double take. Among the bags of traditional candies in autumn colors, you can now find their colorful cousins whose flavors range from juicy summer fruits to … hot dogs.
I collected a few bags of these mixed in the candy aisle and invited my colleagues to try them with me. Here’s what we thought:
The most recognizable supplier of corn corn is no stranger to the news. Last year, he sold candy corn that mimicked Thanksgiving dinner dishes, including turkey and green beans, and also produced taco truck-inspired jelly beans. Its entry this year is being billed as an homage to the food you might eat at a tailgate, though I’m thinking light beer and bottles of bourbon before a candy line of fruit punch, vanilla ice cream, popcorn, hot dogs and hamburgers.
As might be expected, we found the vanilla and fruit punch varieties to be harmless. The popcorn – buttery, with a slight hint of smoke suggesting a bag of microwave-burnt kernels – was slightly worse. The fleshy ones, however, were a different story – in a word, vile. The hot dog flavored variety proved to be the milder of the two, which was a mercy. “Sour and rotten,” pronounced one taster. “I don’t know what’s going on, but I hate it,” said another, between chews. But it was the bolder version of the burger that caused the most gags. Examples of reactions: “Puke in the mouth”; “meat for cough medicine”; and “blerggh,” the sound of disgust one colleague made as he spat the offending matter into a napkin.
I guess the point of it, though, is similar to the Jelly BeanBoozled game, which last Christmas had my nieces screaming as they bit into green jelly beans, wondering if they would taste like pears or boogers, or Bertie Bott’s jelly beans from the Harry books A chase whose flavors include earwax and vomit. Brach’s candy corn seemed to be going for the same Russian roulette effect, as the flavors were mixed and the colors weren’t immediately gifted.
The exact opposite of the company’s terrifying, nauseating “meat” candies, they were all about innocently sweet appeal. Pastel-colored with confetti flakes, these looked like a party—and tasted, we figured, exactly like one, or rather, a dead ringer for their eponymous super-sugary cake mix.
If nostalgia is behind the continued popularity of candy corn, this version fits into its category — at least for people of a certain age (Funfetti cakes were de rigueur at parties in the 1990s). “It reminds me of the birthday cakes I used to have,” said one colleague.
Fruidles raspberry lemonade
These red, white and blue triangles were a clear example of Big Candy Corn trying to tap into other holidays. They resembled those classic summer ice pops so much that some tasters were confused by their taste; it was not the expected layering of cherry, lime and raspberry, but a single-note lemon.
Still, some people liked the lighter profile. “I could eat a bunch of these,” said one.
While it’s definitely not a traditional candy and corn flavor, this entry, based on a gooey fireside snack, feels like autumn. Tasters loved the cinnamon-spiced graham cracker notes. “I get burnt marshmallow here, and I love it,” said one taster.
“It’s not candy corn” summed up our collective understanding of this sweet candy. These riffs on the now-classic Nerds (the product turns 40 next year) come in strawberry/grape, strawberry-lemon/blue raspberry and orange/cherry-watermelon, with a crunchy candy coating and chewy interior.
While many liked the crinkly feel they offered, what stuck with them was that these were candy in name (and form) only. It seems that for people who really enjoy candy, the Nerds version didn’t quite hit the mark because candy is so polarizing to begin with. “You want them to be waxy,” complained one taster. “That’s why you eat candy corn.”