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Sweet Easter treats

So what do fluffy marshmallow Peeps, a popular Easter basket stuffer, have in common with Martha Stewart and President George W. Bush? (This is not a joke.) Both public figures were found to be "in most need of" a Peep when International Communications Research conducted a telephone survey for Peeps manufacturer Just Born Inc in Nov. 2002. Martha Stewart led with 30.6 percent and President George W. Bush came in second at 21.2 percent. What do you think? Who is in most need of a Peep this year? More than one year later, I think Martha and George could still use a Peep.

Fortunately for public figures and average citizens alike, Peeps are now available all year. The soft marshmallow treats come in many shapes and colors, from bright orange pumpkin-shaped Peeps for Halloween to star-shaped Peeps for July Fourth. At Easter time, chicks, bunnies and egg Peeps proliferate. Yellow chicks are the most popular followed by pink, lavender, blue and white.

This Easter, Just Born Inc. expects more than 700 million Peeps to be consumed throughout the United States and abroad. If the United States population is 292,866,268, according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census’s online clock on March 24, 2004 at 10:00:09 a.m., that’s more than two Peeps per person if consumed solely by Americans. But how many Americans can eat just two?

Personality-filled Peeps

Peeps also have distinct personalities. Comedian Drew Carrey, actress Drew Barrymore and news anchor Al Roker most resemble a Peep, concluded survey participants when asked, “Which public person or celebrity most resembles a Peep either in his/her physique or personality, or both?” Carrey came in first at 26.8 percent. Barrymore and Roker came in a distant second and third, at 8.1 percent and 7.9 percent, respectively.

Peeps are also cheap. My local drugstore had a two-for-one offer on Peeps the second to last week in March. Twenty bunnies or 15 chicks cost $1.49. With the two-for-one offer, that’s about 4 cents for a bunny and about 5 cents for a chick.

With deals like this in the brick-and-mortar world, Peeps are no bargain online. Peeps are mostly sold online by the case. A case of 24 packs of 5 chicks each, sells for $17.95 at McKeesport Candy Co. and $19.20 at store.yahoo.com/candywarehouse. That’s equivalent to about 15-16 cents a chick. Back to the local drugstore.

Yummy bunnies

Despite Peeps shear force in numbers, bunnies are the number one must-have when it comes to Easter baskets, according to a survey conducted for the National Confectioners Association (NCA), which estimates 90 million chocolate bunnies will be produced this year for Easter.

The NCA survey also showed the best way to eat chocolate bunnies is to nibble on the eats first. As a matter of fact, 76 percent of 1,000 people surveyed said they start with the ears first. Five percent start with the feet and a lowly four percent head for the tail first. Fifteen percent simply didn’t know or didn’t have a particular plan of attack.

Ear nibblers would be hard pressed not to like the solid milk-chocolate bunny featured at harryanddavid.com. You could say, this hare is all ears. The ears are about 5 inches of its total body length at 9 inches. The slender hare weighs in at 12 ounces. The harryanddavid.com exclusive can’t stand on his own but looks quite sporty, decked out in a bright yellow oversized bow tie, made of confectioner’s sugar. This bunny can come hopping your way for $14.95.

Bunnies with panacheBunnies, like Peeps, have distinct personalities. For formal bunnies, consider Mr. Hare or Miss Penelope and Sir Elliott at debritochocolate.com, a small chocolate shop in Hollister, Calif. (near the garlic capitol of the world — Gilroy, Calif.) New this season, Mr. Hare is only available online or in the catalog. Fitted with a backpack-type wicker basket and a scarf wrapped around his neck, he’s also ready to deliver Easter treats to his suitors. Mr. Hare comes in two sizes and three types of chocolate — milk, dark or white. The small Mr. Hare measures 7 ½ inches and costs $14. The large Mr. Hare stands at 15 inches tall and sells for $29.

Dressed in his Easter finest, Sir Elliot stands about ¼ inch taller than Miss Penelope, who measures 6 ¾ inches. She, however, weighs a bit more at 9 ounces, compared to his 8 ounces. It must be that umbrella she’s carrying. Both solid chocolate bunnies cost $7 at debritochocolate.com. The minimum order is $15. So, you have to buy at least the pair.

Bunnies with personalities are hopping all over the place at chocolatevault.com, an old-fashioned candy shop in Tecumseh, Mich., located in an 1849 Federal-style bank. At the chocolatevault.com, there’s not only four sizes of the traditional seated “sentry” bunny but also bunnies carrying golf clubs, bunnies holding hockey sticks, bunnies in a band and bunnies riding all sorts of stuff, from tractors to roosters.

The 7-inch soccer bunny is new this Easter. So is Alice’s rabbit, a “chubby 2-lbs. rabbit that looks and is dressed like he just came from the tea party with Alice,” says Barbara McCann, who runs the shop with her husband. Depends on how you count them, there’s at least 25 bunnies on the shelves and all of the area available in milk, dark, white or sugar-free chocolate. So a conservative estimate yields a minimum of 100 bunnies.

Prices range from $2.95 for the small traditional bunny to $97.50 for a chocolate bunny, dressed as a cowboy. The cowboy bunny weighs in at 5.35 lbs. and stands 15.5 inches tall. Now, that's a lot of cowboy, a lot of bunny and a lot of chocolate.