Posts filed under ‘Children and Candy’

Snapsy: A New Easter Candy Low

What kid hasn’t dreamed of a huge chocolate bunny to call her own, a massive hunk of melty bliss to be consumed in one of several equally messy ways. I liked to break off the head first, then eat shards down the sides. My daughter prefers the ear-sucking method. Web-sites are devoted to bunny-eating controversy. So imagine my horror when I came upon Snapsy, the snap-apart chocolate bunny.snapsy005

We can thank some horrid committee at Hershey’s for dragging the hallowed chocolate bunny into the food wars. You know the story: obesity, big food, sugar kills, eat your kale. Snapsy is Hershey’s answer to the food police.

photo 1

Snapsy Before

photo 2

Snapsy After

The package promotes the bunny as “easy to snap and share,” but seriously, who shares Easter candy, especially bunnies. This travesty has nothing to do with sharing. I can just imagine how it went down in the marketing meeting: mothers are going to love this! They can give Junior this whole bunny, then faster than you can say “bait-and-switch,” they can break it into sensible portions and morsel them out one at a time.

Just look at how sad and ugly little Snapsy has become compared to his artful 3-D cousins. Snapsy is the chocolate bunny reduced to a flat, lifeless form whose contours serve the purpose of portion control and fun-sapping.

photo 3

Sad Snapsy

I’m all for most of the new food orthodoxy–except when it comes to candy. Listen: candy is supposed to be FUN! There should be room for silly, crazy, excessive, pleasurable, messy, kooky candies, especially when it comes to giant chocolate bunnies.

March 22, 2013 at 5:50 pm 1 comment

Drunken Gummy Bears

The  latest teen scandal: getting drunk on gummy bears.

I heard it this way, from CBS Newspath (Salinas CA):

They’re a sweet staple of any kid’s afternoon pick me up. But now Hollister police—who posted this warning on their facebook page today—and the San Benito County Health Department want you to know gummy bears aren’t so innocent anymore. [Teens] are soaking gummy bears with vodka and the bears soak up all the alcohol so its undetectable.

Hankla says, “teens are very creative and intelligent and can think of ways to sneak alcohol past adults. They can ingest more than they know theyre ingesting because they are taking handfuls of candy and they don’t know how much they’ve ingested so they can become pretty intoxicated pretty quickly.”

Urban legend radar on high alert: kids getting drunk on candy, sounds like oh so many other candy=drugs stories, which invariably turn out to be about 99.9% fantasy.

In this case, it’s a bit more complicated.

My first thought was that this was impossible: gummy bears, like any candy, would dissolve in the vodka. I figured that maybe the story got started when some gang of drunk teens were eating gummy bears, and a candy-hating adult drew her own conclusions.

But my candy biases might be swaying me too far in the other direction. To the laboratory! My assistant and I picked up some vodka and gummy bears on the way home last night, and some candy corn and skittles for comparison.

We doused all the candy in vodka, and here are the results (L to R: candy corn, skittles, gummy bear):

As you can see, the gummy bears are still in tact, some 12 hours after their vodka splash, and the vodka that was in the bowl has disappeared. They don’t dissolve, they absorb. And this absorbent quality has captured the imagination of kids looking for ever new ways to deliver alcohol to the brain. In this video from Detroit, investigators pour a liter of vodka on a full pan of gummy bears. The next day, vodka-plumped bears.

So against my skepticism, this time I credit the story. It’s possible, it’s appealing, it’s probably true.

Related post: Ecstasy Candy Hearts? I doubt it.



October 11, 2011 at 12:40 pm 15 comments

Juice for Babies? Madness.

Mott’s for Tots is boasting 40% less sugar than regular apple juice. If you’ve seen the TV ads in the last couple of weeks, you’ll recognize the campaign, cute toddlers enjoying their snacks while moms look on serenely, knowing that the special toddler juice formulation is safe for their wee ones.

Reduced sugar “for Tots.” So I guess that means it’s fine for the rest of us to continue with the full-blown sugar of regular juice? Why, if they can reduce the sugar, why don’t they just go ahead and do it?

This campaign has been really bugging me. I’m trying to figure out the rationale for targeting this reduced sugar juice to toddlers. I guess the most obvious point is that we are protecting our precious babies from the dangers of too much sugar. But doesn’t that imply that too much sugar might be a problem for people in general? The idea that babies are worth protecting but that everyone else should just go ahead and binge on sugary juice seems a little troubling.

Everybody seems to agree that its the sugar-laden drinks that are driving America from cute pudgyness to repulsive obesity. But juice somehow gets a pass. When the label can boast “no added sugar,” lots of people conclude that means “no sugar.” There is no practical difference between “added sugar” and the sugar that occurs naturally in sweet juices. Mott’s Plus for Kids 100% Apple Grape Juice has 130 calories and 30 grams of sugar in an 8 oz serving. Pepsi has 100 calories and 27 grams of sugar. The only argument I could understand here is that typical juice portions might be smaller than typical soda portions, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that the juice is sugar water in virtuous disguise.

One of the big PR sucesses of the healthy nutrition lobby has been to re-brand sodas as “liquid candy.” Since everybody knows candy is bad for you, calling soda a kind of candy has been a great way to get sodas out of the schools and off the dinner tables of America.

I’m all for this effort, I think water should be what we drink when we’re thirsty. And if you want a sweet drink? The latest generation of artificial sweeteners make for tasty, enjoyable sweet beverages. People who complain that the “diet” versions of soft drinks aren’t as good as the regular will soon have no excuse. Pepsi is working on a formula that would have 60% less sugar and be absolutely indistinguishable from the full-sugar version. I don’t say this often, but: “Go, Pepsi!”

Frankly, I don’t understand why anyone worried about calories or nutrition would choose a sugar-sweetened drink. Am I worried about artificial sweeteners? Maybe if I was drinking 10 bottles of Diet Coke a day, I might be concerned. But these non-caloric sweeteners work because they are intensely sweet in tiny amounts. One packet of Splenda in my iced coffee a couple of times a week, or a diet Snapple every few days, is not something to get excited about.

Soda and candy are different in one important way: sugar in a beverage is a flavoring. Sugar in candy is the candy itself. Put this another way: you could flavor a drink with many kinds of sweeteners, and still have a drink. A non-caloric sweetener will create a sweet drink that may be very much  like a drink sweetened with sugar. But this doesn’t work for candy. If you take out the sugar or corn syrup, you aren’t just taking out sweetness, you’re taking out the stuff of the candy.

So enjoy sugar in your candy, where it belongs. Or, if you really like the sweetness of sugar in something you drink, call it candy, and enjoy it the way you enjoy candy.

As for Mott’s for Tots, 40% less sugar is still lots more sugar than WATER. Juice, even reduced sugar juice, is still “liquid candy,” just like soda. My plea to the parents of America: stop giving apple juice to babies!

May 13, 2011 at 10:26 am 4 comments

Contagious Cavities

One of the favorite themes of the candy alarmists is dental decay: candy causes cavities! How many times have you heard that one? But it just ain’t so.

From no less an authority than the New York Times, this week’s Science section:

While candy and sugar get all the blame, cavities are caused primarily by bacteria that cling to teeth and feast on particles of food from your last meal.

Your last meal. Did you hear that? Not candy, not at all. It’s food, just plain old food, that those cavity-causing bacteria crave.

And there’s more. Those bacteria? Turns out not everybody has them in their mouths. So some people eat only approved virtuous vittles and end up with teeth like swiss cheese, and others suck lollies all day long and pose as tooth models on the weekend. No, life is not fair.

It gets worse. Those cavity bacteria are contagious. Kiss the wrong frog, and you may soon be enjoying the dulcet tones of the dental drill.

Moms, of course, get the short end of the stick either way. When kids cavities are believed to be evidence of a candy habit, mom gets the blame for allowing her darlings to taste of the forbidden not-fruit. And when we realize it’s all because of bad bacteria?

Infants and children are particularly vulnerable to [the bacteria], and studies have shown that most pick it up from their caregivers–for example, when a mother tastes a child’s food to make sure it’s not too hot…

Bad mother!


March 30, 2011 at 9:34 am 8 comments

Sunday Candy, Round Two

Thanks to everyone who shared their recollections of Sunday treats, candy and otherwise.

These days, Sunday is just another day in most cities. Stores are open, brunch is in full swing, and the newspapers are fat enough to last the day long. But there was a time when some people believed Sunday should be set aside for the Lord’s Work.

Reformers back in the day looked askance at every form of Sunday pleasure. Candy was an easy target. Here is a satirical newspaper item from 1904 recounting a Sunday Candy controversy in East Orange, NJ:


Just when we had all settled down comfortably to the belief that there wasn’t anything in East Orange to be reformed, a few faithful and lynx-eyed guardians of the city’s morality come along and discover that open candy stores on Sunday are playing havoc by tempting the youngsters to spend their pennies. That can never be tolerated. How are we to expect boys and girls to grow up into clean, healthy men and women if they succumb to the temptation to buy candy on Sunday? And ours is the fault if the temptation be there.

Let us to work at once! Introduce into the textbooks of the schools lessons setting forth the wretchedness and degradation which must inevitably follow the vicious habit of spending pennies for candy on Sunday. Give the youngsters overdoses of candy six days of the week, but on the seventh make them hold their appetite—and their pennies.

If there’s no other way of effecting this glorious reform we can make it an issue at the next election. “No Sunday Candy” would sweep the city.

Truth (Newark NJ weekly) , Sunday Feb 20, 1904

February 8, 2011 at 10:24 am Leave a comment

Licky Sticky Hats

You recognize this candy, I’m sure. Mexican Hats.

But when it was first introduced by Henry Heide in 1926, it had a different name: Wetem and Wearem.

Why change the name? I’m guessing it’s because the “wetem and wearem” campaign seemed a wee bit unhygienic. In the 1920s state health departments were busy examining candy for purity and hygiene, and while the candy was usually pretty good, the problem seemed to come with what kids were doing with the candy before they put it in their mouths. Heath inspectors were especially harsh with manufacturers of “double use” candy, candy in form of toys and novelties that was designed for play. Wetem and Wearem seemed to encourage the worst kind of germy fun: licking, sticky, falling to the ground, licking and sticking again, and then pop that germy dirty gob in your mouth and begin again.

Kids were likely keep up the same thing whether they were called Wetem and Wearem or Mexican Hats or anything else. But at least “Mexican Hats” kept Heide on the good side of the Health Department.

As for the new name “Mexican Hats,” I decline to speculate. The name seems innocuous enough today, and I suspect that most candy eaters like me assume it refers to the shape of the candy only. Of course, in the 1930s it is likely that it had a strong (and negative) stereotypical connotation. But rather than attempt to flesh that out, I think I will leave the distasteful and shameful prejudices of the 1930s in the 1930s.

How do these candies taste? About like you’d expect for a candy that spends more time on your forehead than in your mouth. They’re gummy and sticky, like Swedish Fish but gluier. Dental restorations be forewarned. If you’re looking for good eatin’, look elsewhere.

Related Post: Toy Novelties: Long After the Candy is Forgotten

November 12, 2010 at 9:29 am 6 comments

Candy Doll Novelties in the 1920s

Today candy novelties are mostly cheap plastic toys, usually generic one-offs. Advertising and brand loyalty are the keys to the success of the biggest candy companies.

High-quality candy novelties were much more important in the early days of the candy industry. Success in the candy business hinged on moving quickly to introduce new kinds of candy and new novelties to catch the eye of child or adult shopper. Higher priced candy was often bought as a gift, and clever or eye catching presentations would increase a gift’s value. For children’s candies, the novelty could transform a simple candy into something much more appealing.

These candy dolls from the 1920s were manufactured by Huyler’s, a large confectioner better known for quality chocolates. Although these goods are for children, they would have been sold at higher-priced shops and department stores alongside Huyler’s chocolate goods and similar candies. Each was made by hand. These candy dolls appear primitive to the modern eye, but must have been charming and appealing to a child in the 1920s.

The first is described as a  “grotesque candy doll … of a type to endear it to the hearts of children.” I think in this context “grotesque” is supposed to mean “comical,” but you can judge for yourself:

Here is Simple Simon, fashioned of candy sticks, with his chocolate pies.  The book motif is cleverly carried through from the shape of the box to the hand-written rhyme, with the figures and candies playing out the theme.

In the Simple Simon package, the Huyler’s name is featured prominently. The transformation of candy box into part of a toy novelty assures that the manufacturer’s name stays in the child’s mind. The novelties are not only for children’s delight, but also to build business:

The children of today are the candy buyers of the future. [These novelties] give the manufacturer a chance to get first place in the child’s affections.

Source: Edward T. Tandy, “Place of Novelties in Merchandising,” Confectioners Journal April 1921 (Printers Ink March 1921)

November 10, 2010 at 1:10 pm Leave a comment

Donate Candy to Science

Skittles density rainbow. Courtesy Loralee Leavitt

What to do with all that Halloween booty? You could eat it all. Or you could do candy science!

Check out Candy Experiments for ideas on dissolving, melting, mixing, and floating your way through the candy bucket. And if you happen to learn a little about solutions or acids or matter phase along the way, ooops! Blame the Candy Professor.

Candy Experiments is the work of Loralee Leavitt, a mom with a science background, curious kids, and too much candy on her hands. It’s real science, folks! Loralee’s candy science has been featured at the USA Science and Engineering Festival and featured in national publications. Great work on the candy front, Loralee!

November 1, 2010 at 8:27 am 1 comment

Halloween Candy to the Troops

If you have kids at Halloween time, you’ve probably already started to strategize a plan for candy rationing.

Dentists in your community are happy to help. Have you heard about the Halloween Candy Buy  Back? Participating dentists will accept your kids’ excess candy, pay out a dollar a pound, and send the candy to U.S. military serving overseas.

Over the years dentists have independently come up with the idea of gathering up all that extra Halloween candy and getting rid of it somehow. In 2006, Madison WI dentist Chris Kammer began to coordinate and organize the event nationally, emphasizing the buy back as a way of supporting the troops. Hundreds of local dental offices now participate. The master plan, according to Dr. Kammer, is that one day soon, dentists will “own Halloween.”

It is a win-win, as the dentists put it. Fewer pounds of candy for American kids, more pounds of candy for American troops.

Actually, taking candy from the kids and sending it to the troops is a pretty old idea.

Back in the 1890s, the German military started experimenting with sugar as a food for their soldiers. Sugar, the Germans concluded, refreshed and energized. The soldiers receiving sugar portions outperformed the sugar-free on every measure. Americans took note: Mary Hinman Abel, writing for the USDA, reported extensively on these military investigations in her 1899 study “Sugar as Food.”

The growth of candy manufacturing made more candy available for military uses. From a 1908 account of the Brooklyn candy trade:

Nowadays every battleship leaving the Brooklyn Navy Yard has on board a lot of candy for the men–Brooklyn candy. ‘Why, in the navy, when a man is handed a pound of tobacco now he is also given a certain amount of candy, and it is believed that the drinking habit will be lessened in that way,’ said a manufacturer. ‘The sailors like the plan immensely, but if they knew it was done for that, they would probably chuck the candy overboard. But aside from that, it is a good food for them; men can fight better on chocolate than on meat–that has been proved in the German army.’ (“Brooklyn leads Country in Candy Export”, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 7, 1908)

Even before the U.S. joined the European war, the soldiers’ love of candy was a common theme (see my post Taking Candy from a Soldier). The war-weary GIs returning from battle in World War I brought home with them a hearty candy appetite. The explosive growth of the U.S. candy business in the 1920s and 1930s was in large part due to a new, rigorous kind of candy eating: not just kiddies and plump ladies, but big strong soldier men had to have their candy.

World War II meant once again a big demand for candy for the troops. Sugar, and candy, were in short supply state-side during the war years, partly due to war shortage, but also due to the requisitioning of huge quantities of candy for military uses. Curtiss Candy reminded customers that Uncle Sam’s needs came first:

LIFE Magazine, 23 Jan 1943

If Americans were forced to give up some of their beloved candy to the troops in the 1940s, it was because it was the right thing, the patriotic thing to do.

And Tootsie Roll picked up the theme in their advertising:

LIFE Magazine, 26 Oct 1942 (detail)

In the Tootsie Roll ad, the joke is that the kids are mad that the grown ups are taking their candy: the soldier should buy his own Tootsie Roll. In jest or in the seriousness of war, the basic message was the same: you’ll have to give up your candy to the soldier if there isn’t enough to go around.  But patriotic support of the troops is the only reason you’d forgo your candy.

In the Halloween Buy Back, the long history of “candy for the troops” collides with more recent ideas about what is bad about candy. It is dentists, after all, representatives of health and hygiene, who are encouraging kids and families to turn in their candy to send to the troops. But if the candy is bad for the kids, why isn’t it bad for the troops?

The Buy Back FAQ suggests some responses to critics who ask this annoying question:

If you get negative comments or feedback, remind critics of the purpose of Halloween Candy Buy Back:

  1. Halloween candy represents a warm memory of life “back home” and children that care enough to donate candy in support of our troops.
  2. Those troops are risking their lives every day. If a little piece of candy can provide a moment of happiness, why not?
  3. Soldiers are adults and certainly understand how to keep their mouths healthy by now. Children are still learning how to brush, floss, and take care of their teeth.

The first two answers emphasize candy not as candy, but as an emotion-laden symbol. This solves the conflict between candy and dental virtue by making the candy invisible: In all those crates of candy, we’re not sending candy, we’re sending support and the warmth of home.

The third reason is that kids shouldn’t have candy because candy causes cavities in kids, but somehow adults will not have this problem. Here is where things get tricky.

Cavities are caused by acids given off by bacteria as they feed on sugars and starches deposited on the teeth. Not every mouth is equally susceptible. Some kids get tons of cavities no matter what they eat. Some kids plant their face in the sugar bowl and get none. And all sugars and starches that adhere to the teeth, be they from candy, bread, pasta, jam, potatoes, and even raisins, can create a bacterial strong hold.

Of course, a “spaghetti buy back” would not put the dentists on the side of angels. Candy is easy to blame, has been for a century, and dentists have grabbed on to the candy scapegoat. This is why dentists can contemplate “owning Halloween.” Don’t get me wrong: I love my dentist. But I love my candy too.

See also: NCA Operation Frontline Candy; “Candy in Combat Zones” in Candy and Snack Today

October 26, 2010 at 8:53 am 7 comments

1951 Halloween Candy

Here’s an ad for Kresge’s Market, New London CT, for 30 October 1951:

I was really happy to find this ad for many reasons. I have been trying to piece together the history of the  Halloween-candy connection, and this ad has some important clues.

The separation between “Halloween candy” and “trick or treat favors” is interesting. Presumably the former is more appropriate for refreshments at Halloween parties. The butter cream corns (candy corn), Hallowe’en butter creams (think Brach’s Harvest Mix), and orange and black kisses are just like the kinds of candies we would choose for a Halloween party today, orange and black and seasonal.

Despite this division between party candies to fill the bowl and “trick or treat favors,” I think it was not uncommon for the loose “party” candies to also be offered to trick or treaters. In fact, the candies listed for trick or treat are not all wrapped; licorice pieces and M&Ms would be loose, and ad suggests that other types of candy are also offered at 1 cent per piece. The insistence on portioned and pre-wrapped candy as the only acceptable trick or treat offering comes much later.

One puzzle: Why wouldn’t mini-Hershey’s be included for trick or treat? Perhaps at 45 cents a pound, it was a little too much for kiddie give away, it seems the candies under “trick or treat” are the cheaper ones. Another thing that I learn from this ad: I didn’t realize that the “mini” size candy bars were available so early. Packaging for trick or treat that I have seen from the 1950s typically is something closer to what we would consider a full size serving.

I also notice that for the party candies, “butter cream corn” is at the top of the list. I’m finding newspaper ads for Halloween including what we call candy corn as the first item featured for Halloween beginning around the 1930s. We think of candy corn as THE Halloween candy, and it is interesting to trace the history of that association. I’ll publish a more detailed account of candy corn later.

The image of trick or treat in this ad is fascinating. The candies are for “Trick or Treat Callers,” transforming the pranksters and gangsters of the 1930s and 1940s into genteel visitors come to pay their respects. The woman appears the most gracious hostess, offering a plate of delicacies to her diminutive guests. Handing out candy is a way to “be ready to make friends with your little neighbors.” It is as if the trick or treating exchange is to the benefit of the hostess, who is implicitly worried about making a good impression on the neighbors.

Related Posts:

October 15, 2010 at 10:23 am 4 comments

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Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

Welcome to Candy Professor

Candy in American Culture What is it about candy? Here you'll find the forgotten, the strange, the curious, the surprising. Our candy story, one post at a time.

(C) Samira Kawash

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