Illustration of a person eating candy corn
This classic Halloween candy is characterized by its tri-color design and its intense sugary sweetness. (Illustration by Mia Stratman, Minneapolis College of Art and Design)

What’s With the Debate Over Candy Corn?

Maybe it’s the taste or possibly the texture? Regardless, the internet is divided about whether this Halloween snack is a fun seasonal treat or a sugary abomination.

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Illustration of a person eating candy corn

Maybe it’s the taste or possibly the texture? Regardless, the internet is divided about whether this Halloween snack is a fun seasonal treat or a sugary abomination.

As the spooky season draws nearer, stores are beginning to display all sorts of candies like ghostly Peeps and pumpkin-shaped Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. There is one Halloween snack, however, that plenty of people are dreading to find in stores: candy corn. “Many people like candy corn,” Deadspin Magazine wrote, “such as hobos, serial murderers, and Satan.” The tri-colored triangular candy has become one of the most hated candies of the Halloween season.

Why? Is it the waxy consistency or the overwhelming sugary taste? Perhaps just the sight of candy corn triggers an awful memory of an embarrassing Halloween costume. It seems that people either love the candy or despise it with a burning passion, and there is no in-between.

Candy corn, once known by the experimental names “Chicken Feed” and “butter cream,” was invented in the 1880s by George Renninger. The recipe hasn’t changed much since then, but machinery has made the labor-intensive manufacturing process significantly easier. A mixture of ingredients — including sugar, fondant, corn syrup, vanilla and marshmallow crème — are first melted into liquid form. Then, orange, yellow and white layers of the liquid mixture are put into trays and molded into the distinctive kernel shape.

In its time, candy corn was a revolutionary invention. The tri-color design had never been done before and created a visual excitement that was incomparable to other treats. Its corn kernel shape and chicken-centric marketing were appealing to families of farmers, who made up almost half of the American workforce. When trick-or-treating began to take off in the 1930s and wartime sugar rations were lifted, candy corn’s colors and low cost made it the obvious choice to offer to kids at the door. Candy corn manufacturers took advantage of this growing shift and focused their advertising in the month of October to Halloween.

According to the National Confectioners Association, the two major American candy companies Jelly Belly and Brach’s produce over 35 million pounds of candy corn annually. That’s nine billion kernels each year! Considering the heaping piles of candy corn that get produced and an apparent universal hatred toward it, something doesn’t add up. It seems that either people genuinely dislike it and decide to throw it away every year, or they are hiding their liking for the candy due to societally inflicted shame.

“I am a grown person who can choose my own treats from the Halloween fun-pack aisle, why in the world would I choose candy corn?” scathed Gwen Ihnat, who calls the candy “the devil’s autumnal poison.” In her opinion, there are a variety of other candies that offer much more in terms of flavor.

Two of the biggest grievances people have about candy corn are its texture and taste. In production, it’s glazed in edible wax to give it a shiny appearance; however, it makes it taste more like a candle than a candy. Upon taking a bite, some people would describe the texture as “chalky” and “crumbly,” which makes for a dissatisfying experience.

The three colors, although charming and fitting for the Halloween season, defy expectations that there would be three separate flavors. Instead, the poor, unfortunate souls who consume candy corn are left disappointed with a bitter, buttery taste. Because each kernel is loaded with sugar, one can only eat a handful before getting a stomachache and falling into a sugar coma.

Spencer Althouse, a writer for BuzzFeed, thought of 19 things that taste better than candy corn. Some of these concoctions include hot dog water, Crocs, earwax and the trash compactor from Star Wars. Althouse’s article seemed to split the comments section. Some people praised him for sharing his negative opinions while others declared an end to their friendship with the author.

Even if you don’t enjoy the taste of candy corn, there are several ways to include it in your Halloween decorations. Several sites have compiled lists of candy corn crafts, such as wreaths, garland, jewelry and mason jar luminaries. As long as you don’t mind the sight of it in your home, a simple bowl of candy corn on the table can get your household into the spooky spirit. Perhaps pairing the candy with a crunchy and salty snack like peanuts will balance the waxy and sugary taste.

An article titled “Actually, Candy Corn Is Great” demonstrates how easily admirers can shut down taste and texture arguments. The author, Kate Willsky, described the flavor as “a nuttiness reminiscent of marzipan” with hints of warm vanilla that “transcends cloying sweetness, becoming something richer and more nuanced.” She also argued that the sugary kernels aren’t too chewy and are just crumbly enough to hold their shape and let your teeth sink into them.

While acknowledging that candy corn tastes like a candle, she attributes it to the sugary taste that makes it her favorite Halloween snack. Besides, dismissing foods because the texture resembles something unsatisfactory does not prove much. Do we dislike yogurt because its texture is similar to lotion?

In the same article where Ihnat demonizes candy corn, Kate Bernot plays devil’s advocate and explains how her preference for crunchy candies like Smarties and Sweethearts influenced her love of candy corn. “I relish the way individual pieces of candy corn crumble under light pressure from my teeth, and then slowly dissolve into a sugary ether,” she wrote. To those that claim that the sugar is what turns people away, Bernot replied, “ya knuckleheads, it’s candy. That’s what we like about candy: its easy, instantaneous shot of brain-pleasing sweetness.”

To those who have never tried the candy, what are you waiting for? It doesn’t need to be your favorite treat, but don’t let strongly opinionated posts on the internet turn you away from indulging in your sweet tooth. It’s time that we refute society’s strong distaste for candy corn, reject the polarization it has caused and enjoy the immaculate taste of crumbly, sugary goodness to put you in the Halloween mood.

Writer Profile

Jenna Amore

Oakland University

Hello! I’m a senior at Oakland University in Michigan with an English major. I enjoy writing nonfiction and dystopian science fiction. I’m excited Study Breaks is giving me the opportunity to write for them!

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