And I wear that title with pride.
Is there somebody out there with a better grasp of the consumer candy market than me?
I'm sure. But that person likely works in the industry itself. I'm just a guy who has slaked his sweet tooth over the years, with just about ever delicious confection known to man and 7-11.
So let’s go through this annual rite of fall, and assess the three main "Divisions" of candy. They are:
The Chocolate Division.
The Hard & Sweet Division.
The Novelty Division.
Yeah, yeah, I know. There is an entire genre of Holiday Candy that simply won't be discussed here. Things like candy corn, candy canes, marshmallow chicks, chocolate bunnies and the like.
This is a discussion about everyday sweets.
As far as I am concerned, there is the "Big 5" here and everybody else. Who is on the list?
Snickers, Milky Way, Twix, and M&M’s Plain & Peanut.
That’s it. That’s the list.
These candy bars have been dominating this division for almost 26 years now since Twix arrived on the scene with its dominating blend of cookie, caramel and chocolate.
To use an NBA analogy, this group is like Magic, Bird, Jordan, Barkley, Ewing and Malone golden era of candy.
A recent sample survey of 3,920 vending machines across North America shows that almost 89% of them had a combination of at least 4 of the 5.* That’s market penetration!
(* OK, I made that stat up. I couldn't help it. But, you get my drift. Those "Big Five" candy bars are in just about ever self-respecting machine in the country.
For years a handful of pretenders have wanted to gain "Top-5 status" in the Chocolate Division, but have never quite made the leap. They include:.
100,000 Bar (or "Hundred Grand" bar) -- Problem is, it’s a messy bar the grade of caramel they use is thicker than the caramel used in Milky Way and just tears up the hardened shell with krispies in it.
Three Musketeers -- too much nougat... who wants that much nougat?
Butterfinger -- sticks to your molars, and is a bloody mess to eat in the car.
Nestle Crunch / Crackle -- nice bars, but basically the same, and only a slight upgrade over the simple Hershey Bar.
Hershey Bar -- In my opinion, an ingredient, not a stand-alone candy bar.
Kit-Kat -- I can get the same from Twix, plus the caramel thrown in for nothing.
Rolos -- Would be good, except for the tinfoil wrapper is a mess.
Baby Ruth -- Too nutty for me.
Mounds -- Ick. Coconut.
Almond Joy -- Ick, almonds AND coconut.
NOTE: Like the straight-on kicker, coconut used to be considered an almost standard candy bar "option" at least, if not a feature. However, today there hasn't been a new candy bar rolled out featuring coconut in any variety in almost 40 years. Interesting.
Whatchamcallit -- Good, but not great.
Caramello -- The European Milky Way. Whatever.
Hershey S’mores -- Okay, if you gotta have marshmallow.
There’s a little pod of mint-based chocolate division bars that includes -- Peppermint Patty, Junior Mint, and Andes Crème mint. Nice alternatives, but hardly major players.
I know what you are saying by now. What about Reese’s peanut butter cups?
Well, what about them? They are messy to eat, melt easily and have the lowest ounce-per-cost ratio of any "major" candy bar. I don't see the value. Plus, Reese’s has tried all kinds of "solutions" like Reese’s Sticks, Reese’s Bar, the Big Cup, the Big Cup with Nuts, even the FastBreak. None of them were able to land in the Top 5.
There’s a "movie theater" subset that deserves noting. we're talking Whoppers, Milk Duds, Goobers, Raisinettes and SnowCaps.
And, there is some candy you really can't get in stores anymore, but is still around if you order off the Internet. That would include, Clark Bars, Mr. Goodbar, Zagnut, the Zero Bar, Sugar Babies and the Sugar Daddy.
You've got taffy based bars, if taffy is your thang. Bars like Abba Zabba and Bit O’ Honey. If you want “toffee” not taffy, then SKOR bar is for you.
HARD AND SWEET DIVISION
The Big 5 here is pretty well set. It’s Skittles, Twizzlers, Hot Tamales, Mike & Ike and Starburst.
Following close behind, are candies like Chuckles (a classic from the ‘50’s). Dots, JuJuBees, and Jujee Fruits (basically all the same molar sticking crap that necessitates a good flossing afterward).
There’s Good ‘N Plenty if you like black licorice (and a lot of people don't). Or it’s rare and hard-to-find cousin, Good ‘N Fruity, which has some kind of clear edible silicone pellet in the middle.
(Cue Homer Simpson: Aaarrggggghhlllll. Mmmm. Silicone pellet...)
Spree is good if you want to tear up your tongue. Jolly Ranchers if you want to tear up your gums. Now and Later, if you like trying to peel paper off the candy. Smarties are fun, but hardly filling.
Here, I think we're dealing with just the "Big Two": Gummy Bears and Nerds.
There’s Necco Wafers (and the harder to find all chocolate version). Bottle Caps, Pixie Sticks (mmmm, straight sugar!), jaw breakers, atomic fireballs, warheads, sour patch kids.
You can have fizzing candy, like Zots or Pop Rocks.
You can also have "morphing candy" like Blow Pops and Razzles, which go from candy to gum.
You can have kid favorites like gummy worms (and other critters), ring pops, candy necklaces and Pez.
Political correctness, I think killed the candy cigarette. Rats.
There’s always the generic jelly beans or Tootsie rolls (which I suppose, belong in the chocolate category, but they just don't seem chocolately enough for me).
And then there’s Fun Dip. Yep, a sugar stick. You lick, and stick in various pouches of MORE sugar! Now that is, fun!
HOT NEW CANDIES TO LOOK FOR
Here’s a few snickies that I think bear close attention. Try them when you get the chance.
Peanut Butter M&M’s -- At first they were only available in test markets and California, but now you can get them everywhere. For my money, no reason to settle for any lesser M&M.
Take 5 Bar -- It’s the only bar right now using pretzels in its base package, and it’s quite a treat. Very unique.
Junior Caramels -- Like Junior Mints, these are basically a softer version of Milk Duds. Not easy to find, however.
Butterfinger BB’s -- Solves the problem of regular Butterfinger and the mess. Are even better out of the fridge or freezer.
Finally, here’s my short list of the WORST candy concepts ever.
Chunky: A square chocolate bar, with nuts and raisins? Go sell crazy somewhere else!
PayDay: Gobs of salted nuts on caramel?? Uh, no thanks.
Super Sugar Daddy: A tennis racket sized Sugar Daddy. Fabulous.
Paper Dots: why can't you just put the dots in a box?
Sweet Tarts: Mmmmm. Urinal cakes!
Wax Lips: Why these are even sold, defies logic.
Steve is a native Washingtonian and has worked in sports talk radio for the last 11 years. He worked at WTEM in 1993 anchoring Team Tickers before he took a full time job with national radio network One-on-One Sports.
A graduate of UC Santa Barbara, Steve has worked for WFNZ in Charlotte where his afternoon show was named "Best Radio Show." Steve continues to serve as a sports personality for WLZR in Milwaukee and does fill-in hosting for Fox Sports Radio.