I like to think that people who go into a state of incandescent rage over a mere piece of candy do it while having fun, essentially giving themselves a pressure valve to complain about something trivial instead of threats very real there that really threaten our existence. (It’s a lot less terrifying to gaze down the candy aisle than our news feedsafter all.)
Candy corn makers probably understand that their products suffer from both a PR problem and being pigeonholed into a single, short season. The growing genre flavored candy corn seems like their neat double fix. Among the traditional fall-colored candy bags, you can now find their brightly colored cousins whose flavors range from juicy summer fruits to… hot dogs.
I collected a few bags of these candy aisle intruders and invited co-workers to taste them with me. Here’s what we thought:
The most recognizable purveyor of candy corn is no stranger to novelty. Last year, it sold sweet corn that mimicked Thanksgiving dinner entrees, including turkey and green beans, and it also memorably produced “taco truck”-inspired jellybeans. . Its entry this year is marketed as an homage to the foods you could eat at a tailgate, though I’m thinking light beer and flasks of bourbon before the range of fruit punch, vanilla ice cream, popcorn, hot -dog and burger.
As expected, we found the vanilla and fruit punch varieties harmless. The popcorn – buttered, with a slight smoky note to suggest a bag of microwaved burnt kernels – was slightly worse. The meats, however, were a different story – in a word, vile. The hot dog flavored variety turned out to be the milder of the two, which was merciful. “Sour and rotten,” said one taster. “I don’t know what’s going on, but I hate it,” said another, between bites. But the bolder hamburger version induced the most gags. Examples of reactions: “vomit in your mouth”; “antitussive meat”; and “blerggh”, the sound of disgust a colleague made while spitting the offending thing into a napkin.
I guess disgust is the point, though, similar to the Jelly Belly BeanBoozled game, which last Christmas had my nieces squealing as they bit into green candies, wondering if they’d taste like pears or boogers, or the Bertie Bott’s jellies from the Harry Potter books whose flavors include earwax and vomit. Brach’s sweet corn seemed to be aiming for the same Russian roulette effect, as the flavors were mixed and the colors weren’t an immediate giveaway.
The exact opposite of the company’s intimidating, nauseating “meat” candies, this was an innocently sweet lure. Pastel-colored with confetti flakes, these looked like a party — and they tasted, we concluded, exactly like a, or rather, look-alike for their namesake super sweet cake mix.
If nostalgia is the driving force behind candy corn’s continued popularity, this version fits right into its category – at least for people of a certain age (Funfetti cakes were de rigueur at 1990s parties ). “Reminds me of the birthday cakes I used to have,” a colleague said.
Fruidles Raspberry Lemonade
These red, white and blue triangles were a clear example of Big Candy Corn trying to honk on another holiday. They looked so much like those classic summer popsicles that some tasters were confused by their flavor; it wasn’t the expected layering of cherry, lime and raspberry, but rather a hint of lemon.
Even so, some people liked the lighter profile. “I could eat a bunch of them,” one said.
While it’s decidedly not the traditional candy corn flavor, this starter, based on the gooey fireside snack, felt autumnally on point. Tasters loved the cinnamon-spiced graham cracker notes. “I’m becoming like a burnt marshmallow here, and I love it,” a preview said.
“It’s not sweet corn” sums up our collective take on this sour 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 loved the puckery feel they offered, the knock on them was that they were just candy corn in name (and shape). It seems that for people who actually enjoy candy corn, the Nerds version didn’t hit the mark for the very reason the candy is so polarizing to begin with. “You want them to be waxy,” lamented one taster. “That’s why you eat sweet corn.”