On September 9, 1950 the town of Midland Park, New Jersey experienced a holiday tragedy the likes of which had been previously unknown. The effects would be felt by retailers across the nation and by perhaps as many as tens of disappointed little Halloween goblins and ghouls.
Because right in the middle of the process of making a batch of candy corn, a beeswax-lined kettle caught fire and burned the Goelitz Confectionary Company New Jersey factory to the ground. The good news is that all of the employees managed to escape the blaze unharmed. And the other good news is that 2000 pounds of candy corn was consumed by the blaze, which meant no one else had to eat it.
Candy corn has been around since at least the late 19th century when it was allegedly invented by George Renninger of the Wunderle Candy Company. The weird pretend vegetable candy had its wider debut in 1880, when Goelitz Confectionary first mass produced packages of it and sent it out into the world marketed as “Chicken Feed.”
Obviously there can be no accounting for the questionable culinary tastes of 19th century America. But the really strange part is there still seems to be a small, enthusiastic remnant of the population that loves the stuff. These are the folks who at parties, gobble handfuls of candy corn mixed with peanuts and insist it’s just like eating a PayDay candy bar (which in this blogger’s humble opinion, is also gross) or who design specialty candy corn cocktails, because nothing says, “Mix me with vodka!” like corn syrup and fondant.
These are the same people who are responsible for candy companies feeling the need to produce up to 15 billion kernels of candy corn every year, including buckets of them in red, white and green for Christmas (a traditional corn holiday) or red, white, and pink for Valentine’s Day (so you can tell the one you love, “Here, I got you this corn.”).
I know I typically try to avoid a whole lot of controversy on this blog, but I do realize at this point, I will have to concede that a few of you reading may find yourself in the candy corn camp. Even my dad, who is one of the wisest people I know, is generally right about most things, and is a loyal reader of this blog, also occasionally enjoys candy corn.
But highly scientific market research into American candy preferences suggests that candy corn is by far the most divisive candy on the market. People who don’t like it, really don’t like it and probably have their fists raised as they nod along with this post. And I suppose the tens of people who love it, really do love it. They can’t wait for retail Halloween to roll around every July so they can stock up, make themselves a candy corn martini, and munch some PayDay mix.
They’re the people who in 1950, were dismayed at the September Goelitz fire because even though the handful of other companies that produced the confectionary kernels tried their best, there was a candy corn shortfall that year.
Goelitz decided not to rebuild its New Jersey factory, though they still produce a good share of the candy corn on the market. Today, the company is known as Jelly Belly, the same ones responsible for the vomit flavored Bertie Botts Every Flavor Bean, easily the third worst candy in the world.
So, you may ask, what’s the second most awful candy in the world? Well, actually I admit there may some room for debate on that front. As much as I dislike candy corn, Halloween offers us another terrible alternative in the form of that weird brown taffy that comes in the orange and back wrappers. Honestly, it’s kind of a toss-up and if you try to give out either one to Trick-or-Treaters, you might deserve the egging your house is sure to receive.
But, since the American* public is facing another looming similar situation in which it will have to attempt to choose the least terrible of the worst alternatives imaginable, I figured we all could use a little practice. To that end, I’d like to conduct a brief and highly scientific poll. So, what do you think? Is candy corn the worst candy on the market? And if not, why, do you think, are you so clearly wrong?
*I realize that candy corn is more or less an American problem, but Non-Americans are more than welcome (and even encouraged) to participate in this important debate, too. I suspect, no matter the outcome, our houses are all getting egged.