Candy

The Weekly’s superb editor, Sara Rubin—who also happens to be a very fine person of many talents—posed a brilliant and thoughtful question regarding Halloween candy the other day.

Trying to butter up the editor because it’s a beautiful day and bar patios beckon? Not a bit of it. 

Her conundrum had to do with one’s candy strategy. Considering that fewer kids trick or-treat through neighborhoods these days (particularly those with apartment blocks), how should you stock up?

There seem to be two options here. You could buy good stuff so you will be left with treats you actually enjoy. The downside to that, of course, is all of that post-Halloween snacking (if that's a downside). Or you could load up on crappy—and not very tolerable—candy. The benefit of this plan is that you really don’t mind shoveling it to unwary children. But it’s also a waste of valuable credit.

Yeah, we could ask around. 

"People mostly come in for saltwater taffy and candy corn this time of year,” observes Maria Hernandez at Candy World in Pacific Grove’s Tin Cannery. “Our most popular flavors”—referring here to taffy, as candy corn has no known flavor other than corn syrup—“are watermelon, vanilla and cinnamon."

There you go. Option two is the clear favorite. Now it’s off to the ba...um, next meeting. At least the Burning Question is settled—except that the new Market and Creamery at Carmel Valley Ranch placed a massive jar of candy corn just inside their door, presumably to attract guests. And our corps of eager interns polled random people for answers and found a disturbing affinity for the cloying triangles, such as this from Marina resident Vernia Bonnard: “It’s all sugar! Might as well get a punch!”

OK—this kinda muddies the two-option candy strategy deal. Do people really want candy corn for Halloween?

Well, the folks at CandyStore.com once again polled their customers (30,000 people, they say) and perused websites (a dozen) to find out what Americans consider good and bad when it comes to Halloween treats.

Their findings place Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Snickers, Twix, Kit Kat and M&Ms at the top of the list. The most feared? Yep—candy corn. The survey determined that people hate candy corn more than other non-edibles, like Circus Peanuts and Necco Wafers.

And with information drawn from a field of 30,012, that’s pretty definitive. The margin of error on that is...um...no idea. And admittedly the methodology may not be perfect.

How about something more authoritative. Let’s see...Oh, the Polling Institute at New Jersey’s Monmouth University. They called up 1,161 adults between Sept. 23-29 of this year. They pegged the plus or minus at 2.9 percent, from a survey field waaaay smaller than CandyStore.com.

The results were eerily similar. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups held the top spot at 36 percent, followed by Snickers (18 percent) and M&Ms (11 percent).

Settled, except for a little wrinkle.

You see, those 1,161 people willing to define American candy culture only named eight candies. And tied for fourth place in the poll were Hershey Bars and candy corn at 6 percent. Geez—candy corn even beat out Skittles. Maybe the staffers at Monmouth University only dialed landlines.

The results even had the university’s Polling Institute director, Patrick Murray, hedging.

“Candy corn even making the list may surprise some people, but it is one of the top-selling Halloween candies in the country,” he said in a release. “We don’t know if it’s one of the top-eaten candies, but it does have a fan base.”

Murray’s a scholar, so he packs a lot into a few lines. Candy corn is indeed found everywhere around Halloween, which supports the statement made by Hernandez at Candy World. It has a fan base because it is sweet and nostalgic, just as alluded to by Bonnard when hailed by our intrepid intern.

But do people really gobble handfuls of candy corn? Guessing no, which points us again to strategy two.

However...

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A study by RetailMeNot found agreement on M&Ms, Reese’s, Kit Kat and Snickers. But their data lists candy corn as a favorite of a whopping 33 percent of the population. That’s fully a third of American adults who have lost the capacity for rational decision making.

And yes, in their poll, candy corn again beat out Skittles. What the hell? Skittles at least have a semblance of fruit-style flavor.

So it’s confusing.

But according to the National Retail Federation, which relies on Prosper Insights & Analytics to gather data, 95 percent of Americans purchase candy for Halloween purposes, to the tune of $2.6 billion. So having a candy strategy is critical.

We just have no idea what it is.

Wait—there’s a clue further down in the NRF report. While 95 percent of us will buy candy, only 70 percent plan to share it with trick or treaters. That’s either utterly selfish or a nod to strategy one.

For the purposes of this week’s Burning Question, we’re going with the first plan. Buy good stuff, save some for yourself. But then what becomes of all that abominable candy corn?

“Candy corn make great fake teeth to creep out your parents with,” Monmouth University’s Murray points out. And they just might be used to cause an editor to believe you have a “dental emergency” and have to leave the office.

Should have come up with that one before all that flattery. She’s really a tyrant that…

She’s standing behind me, isn’t she. Well, hell.

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