This news isn’t so sweet for candy corn connoisseurs: the hallmark Halloween candy is falling out of favor.
Instead, Americans had a hankering for gummies, marshmallows and chocolate, according to a CNN analysis of Nielsen IQ data.
In the six weeks leading up to Halloween — a time many refer to as “spooky season” — candy corn sales have steadily declined year after year since 2018, hitting a low of 12.7 million units last year.
As of approximately two weeks ago, 5.3 million units of candy corn have been purchased in the US ahead of trick-or-treating.
But the sickly sweet, tricolored candies have been a point of contention among many consumers, who vehemently despise or adore the polarizing confection.
“It’s not like, ‘Yeah, it’s OK,’” Beth Kimmerle, “Candy: The Sweet History” author and Attribute Analytic founder, told CNN. “Either people love it or hate it.”
Despite the dip in sales, candy corn has remained in the top 10 confection picks in the fall, according to data from CandyStore.com which spanned from 2007 to 2022. It took first place in Utah while ranking third in New York.
Candy corn appears to have been invented in the 1880s, when George Renninger, of Philadelphia’s Wunderle Candy Company, developed the brightly hued sugar and corn syrup concoction. However, due to being made with corn byproduct, it was associated with chicken feed and later known as “penny candy” due to its low cost.
While the ingredients of candy corn — sugar, corn syrup, confectioner’s glaze, salt, gelatin, honey, sesame oil, and artificial flavors and dyes — seem run of the mill, eagle-eyed consumers have realized one stomach-churning detail.
Confectioner’s glaze, also known as “shellac” or “lac-resin,” is derived from the secretion of Southeast Asian insects.
To those repulsed by candy corn, it seems unfathomable that anyone would keep going back for more, but candy historian Susan Benjamin insists nostalgia plays a major role.
“I remember it from my childhood, and the younger people don’t,” Benjamin, also the president of West Virginia candy store True Treats, told CNN. “And candy is as much about memory as it is about the actual taste.”
Despite Brach’s best attempts to keep candy corn relevant with an array of novel flavors, the confection giant appears unable to beat out fan-favorite chocolate, which outsold all other sub-categories of candy by nearly double last year.
Marshmallows and gummies trailed far behind, with their popularity steadily increasing since 2018.
“Gummies bounce around playfully in your mouth while you’re chewing and then they dissolve,” Kimmerle told CNN, comparing it to the gritty texture of candy corn, which may play a role in its controversy.
While Attribute Analytics found that the flavor of chewy candies, such as Albanese Gummi Bear Cubs, is likely to linger longer in your mouth and build with each bite, candy corn’s overwhelming “sweet” factor drowned out its other flavors, its profile described as “chemical” with hints of artificial vanilla and caramelized sugar.
“It’s not a marshmallow, it’s not a hard candy,” Kimmerle said of candy corn. “It’s somewhere in between.”
According to a recent survey by Candystore.com, the most-purchased sweets on Halloween include:
- Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
- Hot Tamales
- Sour Patch Kids
- Hershey’s Kisses
- Candy corn
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