Why candy corn is so loved (but also really hated)

Why is candy corn such a polarizing treat? Fans and detractors share their views.
Why is candy corn such a polarizing treat? Fans and detractors share their views.TODAY
By Kirsten Henri

You thought the presidential election was divisive? Just try asking people how they feel about candy corn.

People who love the tri-colored Halloween confection LOVE it, in the totally obsessed, can't-stop-cramming-it-into-my-mouth-please-take-it-away-before-I-eat-the-entire-bag sense. They sing the praises of its signature sorta-creamy, kinda-chewy texture, festive fall palette and molar-destroying sweetness — not to mention the way it can double as costume fangs.

In fact, Google recently announced that candy corn is the most-searched-for sweet in the U.S. this Halloween season, beating out the likes of M&M'S, Twizzlers and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Googlers are also hot on the hunt for “candy corn M&Ms,” “candy corn cookies,” “candy corn recipe” and “candy corn Oreos.” All of which may come as a surprise to the legions of candy-corn haters out there.

Story: From 'just wrong' to 'super sweet': TODAY tastes Candy Corn Oreos

But first, let’s hear from some of the lovers:

“Love it. Nothing says Halloween is on its way quite like candy corn!!” —Frank Urso, New Jersey

“Love them, but can only eat a few. It's like an ice cold beer: nothing’s as good as the first one.” —Marilyn McDevitt (a dentist!), Massachusetts

“Love it, but only once a year. Like Cadbury eggs, they lose their appeal after about two weeks.” —Christy Lejeune, Philadelphia

A big part of what makes candy corn so wildly popular is its seasonality, according to Susan Whiteside, vice president of communications for the National Confectioners’ Association. “It’s the original limited edition candy!” Whiteside said. “The ‘get it while you can’ element is extremely important. Candy corn is to the confectionery industry what the pumpkin spiced latte is to coffee. People wait for it every year.”

And let’s face it, candy corn is just so darn cute, which might explain why it’s making its way into Oreos and other unexpected locales. “It lends itself nicely to design,” explained Whiteside. “I’ve even seen non-edible candy-corn-themed items like socks and candles.”

She’s not kidding: take a look at this Pinterest search for candy corn.

But don’t be fooled — there are many candy-corn haters out there. In fact, in a TODAY.com survey last year, candy corn came in as the second most hated Halloween confection, right behind peanut butter toffee. Some Facebookers shared their list of very specific complaints about the evils lurking within these guileless candy kernels:

“I hate it! I can taste the starch or whatever chemical or preservative is in it. It burns the back of my throat.” —Edward Yaeger, Connecticut

“Hate it. It is too sweet, but that isn’t the real reason. There is something about the consistency. It is chalky and unpleasant through the chewing process.” —Guy Abramovitz, Philadelphia

“Blech! Tastes like cavities.” —Maggie Hochberg, Seattle

So what exactly IS candy corn anyway? Is it wax? Is there any corn in it? Is it just a little sugar bomb?

Technically, candy corn is a mellowcreme, a type of confection made from sugar, corn syrup, honey and wax — and, depending on who's doing the candymaking — fondant and marshmallow. It was invented (and laboriously made by hand)  in the 1880s at the Wunderlee Candy Company in Philadelphia by confectioner George Renninger; most of the candy corn you'll eat today, though, is mass-produced by brands like Brach's or Jelly Belly Candy Company.

Interestingly, Whiteside points out, candy corn remains a perennial Halloween presence despite the fact that it’s actually not much of a trick-or-treat candy. “Because it’s more commonly sold in one-pound bags and not individually packaged. It’s typically been sold as a ‘candy dish candy’ that people also love to decorate and bake and cook with — which goes back to the fact that it’s just plain cute.”

According to data from the National Confectioners Association, more than 35 million pounds of candy corn will be produced this year alone. This means there have to be more people who love candy corn — at least for its good looks — than hate it, right? Right?!

How do you feel about candy corn? Love it? Hate it? Why?

Kirsten Henri is a Philadelphia-based food and lifestyle writer who is both a lover and a hater of candy corn. She hates to take sides when it comes to sweets. You can find her on twitter @kirstenography.

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