A few weeks ago, a map from the review-app Influenster claimed to know the favorite Halloween candies of each state. The methodology had all sorts of problems, as anyone who’d ever visited the supposedly Toblerone-obsessed state of Arizona might surely attest. As a born and bread Oregonian, I was able to call foul right away. We don’t mess with Candy Corn. But the biggest and most obvious error was that only two tiny states (Rhode Island & Connecticut) picked Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups as their favorite. Insanity.
When CandyStore.com released their own infographic, it was slightly more reasonable (but not much). Tootsie Rolls were out, but the company had the audacity to suggest that Saltwater Taffy was most beloved candy in California. Still, Reese’s Peanut Butter cups had five spots on lockdown. Oregon included. Not surprisingly, the CandyStore map caused less outrage online.
As The Ringer later pointed out, both measurements had all sorts of flaws. Since most of the candy in U.S. is sold at grocers and mini-marts, getting a clear ideas of sales numbers in this $35 billion dollar/ year industry would require info from K-Mart, Vons, Kroger, etc. A true map of the most-purchased candies in the country would probably prove relatively straightforward, with a lot of Hershey’s and Mars products across the board.
But popularity only matters up to a point. The Big Bang Theory is popular. The key is to be popular and binge-able and culturally resonant. Like Game of Thrones. In the kingdom of confections, that three-way intersection is ruled by Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Sure, they have widespread appeal, but they are also good. Good in the way that few mainstream sweets can be good — in which you forget even the vaguest notion of guilt because you’re too busy having an ecstatic experience.
I’ve eaten a Hershey’s bar, but I’ve never been glad about it. I’ve enjoyed Starburst when they’re sitting in a bowl beside the bank teller, but I’ve never stopped somewhere to buy them. Two Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (warmed in the microwave for exactly 18-seconds) on the other hand? That’s a level of orgiastic bliss that can beat just about any clever, cheffed-up dessert I’ve ever come across. An apple tart with cinnamon ice cream? Nah, I’ll take the candy that sells for $1.00 next to the Five Hour Energy drink, please.
The magic is in the math. The Reese’s cup is a perfect mix of salty and sweet, combined in a golden ratio and has therefore proven just about impervious to the winds of change since its 1928 inception. No upscale candy maker has been able to trump Reese’s, nor has the brand ever been able to best their own original recipe. A cup with Reese’s pieces inside? That’s just stunt casting. No one needs it. No one craves it. The only modifications that have ever really worked are the “Big Cup” and these insane 8oz cups selling online. Those improvements fall under the “more of a good thing” heading.
Until we start ponying up for National Confectioners Association case studies, we’ll never really know what the nation is buying the most of. But the country’s “favorite” — the populist hero that leaves fans wanting more and can still compete with something a little more high brow — we know that.
Which is why I’ll be buying a bag of Reese’s cups for Halloween. Then I’ll give the kids grapes or something. Turnips, perhaps. Kids love turnips.