The End of Candy
2009 was the final year for the “All Candy Expo,” the National Confectioner’s Association’s major trade show. For 2010, the event has been renamed: “Sweets and Snacks Expo.” It’s happening this week in Chicago. I wish I were there. Katharine Weber has a great scene in her novel True Confections based on the Expo, and she makes it seem like a lot of fun (and if you’re there this week, look for Katharine, she’s at the Expo signing copies of her book).
But I’m a little sad about the renaming of the event. Candy doesn’t even merit mention in the event name. The event will feature:
“Confectionery. Chocolate. Candy. Gum. Salty Snacks. Cookies. Popcorn. Biscuits. Breakfast Snacks. Nutrition Bars. Meat Snacks. Fruit Snacks. Granola Bars. Nuts.”
Candy is still up front, but the line of alternatives seems long and decidedly un-candy-like.
A lot of what used to be called candy is now re-imagined as “snacks” (which I guess sounds more like food and therefore more respectable). Meanwhile, candy like everything else these days is trending “healthy.” Which may be about things that are better for you, or it may just be about things that seem better for you. We’re seeing a lot of pseudo-candy on the grocery store shelves: foods that are candy-like, but that promise some other virtue. Fruit juice, all natural, organic, vitamin fortified, and the like. Candy can’t just be candy.
And clearly, there is a lot of candy that doesn’t want to be seen as candy. If you wander over to the snack aisle, you might find items like “Welch’s Fruit Snacks,” or Betty Crocker’s “Fruit by the Foot.” Fruit, right? Um, not exactly. Because whether the sugar comes from apple juice or pear puree or sugar cane crystals, it’s still sugar. But since these products look like something from fruit, they are somehow exempt from the stigma associated with candy. Just ask the Washington State Tax authorities who didn’t even consider those “fruit snacks” when they put together the list for the new candy tax.
The rise of candy taxes in Washington, Colorado, Illinois, and the murmurings heard elsewhere, tell us which way the wind is blowing on candy. American’s will still want it, and still eat it. But it won’t be called candy. And it will likely be manufactured and packaged in some way to evade legal definitions on candy. Even today, products like Milky Way candy bars and Look candy bars are exempt from the Washington tax because they contain flour. So just add a pinch of flour to your recipe, and presto, your candy is tranformed into tax-free food.
As far as the tax goes, I really don’t care. But I do think there is something important about honesty and transparency and clarity in what we eat and how we choose.
Candy is a lovely thing. How sad it would be to hide it, to distort it, to smother it because we can’t call a thing by its name.