- Eric Webb American-Statesman Staff
Has it started for you yet? The unceasing flood of shiny plastic packets and glossy paper wrappers bursting with sweets in quantities you’d never dream of eating any other month of the year? Do your teeth quake when you see an orange bucket shaped like a pumpkin?
It’s Halloween season. May God have mercy on your insulin level.
At the American-Statesman, a newsroom familiar with eating things that aren’t good for you, the first volleys in the candy invasion have begun, and it’s important to remember not all candies are created equal. From a young age, we learn which confections are worth plucking from the bowl first and which tend to languish untouched by the time November rolls around.
What follows is the definitive power ranking of 43 common Halloween candies. A crack team made up of only me compiled this list of treats by scouring the websites of popular stores and wholesalers. There are, of course, other candies out in the world. I apologize to the Charleston Chew lobby for the exclusion, but I’m only one man, and there’s only so much space in this column. I think you’ll find it’s fairly representative.
Trick or treat.
43. Peeps: Plumbing caulk. Leftover foam party residue. I don’t care if you made it look like a cute little ghostie. It’s still meringue with poor self-esteem.
42. Popcorn balls: At least hand out apples, Mom.
41. Weird off-brand chocolate wrapped in foil: If a candy sits in a bowl and no one eats it, is it still candy? At what point does it become an artifact?
40. Candy pumpkins: The candy equivalent of eating crown molding. This is for decoration.
39. Candy corn: Though it is similar to its pumpkin-shaped colleague, the saving grace of these most divisive Halloween candies is that you can stick them on your canine teeth and pretend to be a vampire with gingivitis. What would you call that flavor, anyway? Expired sugar? Dull resignation to the way things have always been? Be better to yourself.
38. Lollipops: Dum Dums are legit. Anything else takes too long and keeps you from eating other candy.
37. Bubblegum: See above. As a Koopa shell is in Mario Kart, so this is. It just gets in the way. Don’t get me started on Blow Pops.
36. Smarties: Some blackboard chalk magnate is cackling at the greatest scam ever pulled.
35. Swedish Fish: Like a fine malbec, one cannot appreciate Poseidon’s gummiest children until adulthood, and even then only if they have particular tastes. They’re not worth putting in a festive cauldron for all to enjoy.
34. Taffy: No one else is in on the joke, grandma.
33. Jellybeans: I want to shove candy in my mouth, not consult a chart just to figure out if I’m about to taste lemon or pee.
32. Jolly Ranchers: These are a prize for many children, enticed by a shard of glass that will turn their tongue blue. The discerning confection connoisseur knows they’re one-note and cloying.
31. Airheads: Only ranked higher than taffy because it doesn’t double as a low-cost dental filling. Softer, gentler, still inessential.
30. Nerds: These are heterosexual Pop Rocks.
29. 3 Musketeers: You get out of life what you put into it. If you put in only nougat, you become the elevator music of candies.
28. Milk Duds: I love a Milk Dud. I hate needing a Waterpik and a blowtorch to not look like Austin Powers when I’m done.
27. Pixy Stix: One one hand, I respect the simplicity of distilling the concept of candy to straight-up sugar granules. On the other hand, it’s like ordering coffee at Starbucks and just getting a cup of beans. Do a little work, man.
26. Hershey’s Kisses: This is a Christmas candy.
25. Hershey’s Bar: It’s like eating a dry baked potato. Sure, you can do it. But you don’t have to.
24. Sweet Tarts: Smarties are Olivia Newton-John at the beginning of “Grease.” Sweet Tarts are Olivia Newton-John in leather pants.
23. Sour Patch Kids: A year-round favorite of kids, and for good reason, but don’t you find all that sour sugar gauche?
22. Kit Kat: Humble and workmanlike, like a dad who works nights.
21. M&Ms (peanut): This will be an upset ranking, but I don’t care. These are not bad, but I’ve never eaten a bag of plain M&Ms and thought, “I wish this tasted like a free snack from a bar.”
20. Snickers: The prototypical candy bar. You’ve got your chocolate, your caramel, your nuts. Somehow, that chewy devil, nougat, snuck into this party. But all things considered, it’s earned its prestige.
19. Milky Way: There is a small chance I just don’t love peanuts in my candy.
18. Twix: The main problem with candy in general is that it’s not cookies. These sugary Frankenstein sticks found a crunchy, chewy gap in the market and filled it like capitalist heroes.
17. Almond Joy: A flood of tender, tropical sweetness mixed with crunchy, hearty almonds and enveloped in milk chocolate. My stance on nuts is becoming more inscrutable by the minute. I guess sometimes you do feel like a nut.
16. Pop Rocks: For the kind of Halloween that says, “I WANT CANDY TO PUNCH MY TONGUE REPEATEDLY BUT ALSO HISS INSIDE ME LIKE A MELTING SNAKE.”
15. Nestle Crunch: Look no further for evidence that texture is a major player in the confectionary Hunger Games. The defined ridges on the Crunch bar are fun to bite into; the crisped rice mixed in keeps the sensations coming with each chew.
14. Whoppers: They’re like little eggs filled with crunchy powder that taste like an ice cream treat. Weird, but good! They’ve been around in some form since the late 1930s, which is exactly the era in which you’d think someone would create something called a “malted milk ball.”
13. Lemonheads: This list has not been kind to harder candies, but Lemonheads (and to a lesser extent, their various fruit-flavored siblings) combine a sweet-and-sour lemon flavor that’s not too precious with a layered texture experience. Bonus: The creator named them after his newborn son because he thought the baby’s head looked like a lemon, according to his New York Times obituary. Delicious and inspired by a casual insult to an infant!
12. Starburst: Picking up taffy’s slack since 1960.
11. Skittles: Just not the purple ones.
10. 100 Grand: This candy bar makes me feel like I have clear pores and a Roth IRA.
9. Tootsie Pops: See, lollipops? All you needed was a little punch of chocolate in the middle to transcend this world.
8. Dots: Soft, juicy and unique in their interpretation of a classic fruit palette. Don’t sleep on these gumdrops.
7. M&Ms (plain): Peanuts are a distraction. I meant it.
6. Reese’s Pieces: On the other hand … You’re going to start noticing a theme, and it’s that I will praise peanut butter like I’m a choosy mom who chooses bribes from the peanut butter lobby.
5. Twizzlers: Black licorice? A poisonous hose. Red Twizzlers? A delicious, edible soda straw.
4. Gummy worms: You could slot any gummy product here, because they’re all pretty legit, but the worms take the trophy home with their name engraved on it, due to the fact that they’re spooky.
3. Tootsie Rolls: It has recently come to my attention that many people dislike Tootsie Rolls. This happened when I expressed my love for it at work, and my colleagues shrieked like I’d told them our newspaper was pivoting to video. They are wrong, and I question their moral fiber. Tootsie Rolls are chewy, they have a mellow cocoa taste and they’re really hard to melt. Also, this fact, per the Tootsie Roll website, is bonkers and worthy of respect on the creepiest holiday: Inventor Leo Hirshfield’s “recipe required the incorporation of the previous day’s Tootsie Rolls into each newly cooked confection, a graining process that Tootsie continues to this day. As such, there’s (theoretically) a bit of Leo’s very first Tootsie Roll in every one of the sixty four million Tootsie Rolls that Tootsie produces each day.”
2. Butterfinger: Just enough of a peanut butter flavor to be warm and familiar, but just different enough to be its own thing. Perhaps the most gorgeous of the candies on this list — more treats should look like geologic formations when you bite into them. Crispety, crunchety orange shale forever.
1. Reese’s Cups: King candy. The reigning champion of decadence. You know you’re in charge when your name becomes synonymous with your flavor combination. When I worked at Amy’s Ice Creams, we were told the peanut butter cups were one of the most expensive crush’ns. Royalty knows its worth. Now, figure out a way to get more peanut butter in that cup.