Food & Drink

Halloween Candy Hasn’t Changed in 40 Years and It Sucks

halloween candy
Leena Robinson/Shutterstock

One of the main reasons I had children, aside from the whole “bringing another life into the world” thing, was to have an excuse to go out and non-creepily get candy again on Halloween, and then steal that candy from said children and blame it on the fact that I was “worried about their sugar intake” or some other nonsense. And so I enacted that plan last year, stole my children’s candy, blamed it on the food pyramid, and ate it. And guess what? It was terrible.

Because here’s the thing about the candy we consume on this totally normal Christo-Pagan holiday where neighbors decorate their houses with severed feet and half-buried skeletons and terrifying motion-sensor witches and you’re required to disguise your identity in hopes of tricking vengeful souls from enacting murder-revenge, and it’s normal to go house to house and essentially offer a veiled threat if you don’t get candy: somehow, despite the artisanal-ization of just about every part of the food industry, “fun size” industrial bags of Halloween candy have remained basically the same for the last forty years, and it’s pretty damn bad.

There are two issues at play here. The first is with the entire “fun size” conceit. Aside from the fact that 1980s family-friendly cruise ship comedians built entire careers around the irony in the name, many of these candies are at their worst in fun size. If you’re only getting two Starbursts, the chances dramatically increase that you may be stuck with at least 50% if not 100% lemon. Lemon Starbursts are a pox on society, the candy equivalent of Harry Potter rat-sized bad person Peter Pettigrew.

Halloween Candy Twix
Kevin Alexander/Thrillist

But even nominally “good” candy can turn bad at that size. Consider Twix, a normally decent candy. For one, the name Twix is some sort of play on “Twin” and suggests two, and you only get one, so the name is basically a lie. On top of that, the caramel quality dips dramatically in the smaller version.

With Twizzlers, the ENTIRE taste and texture change at that size (the internet is already upset about this), and suddenly you are eating a knock-off, fourth tier Red Vine.

M&Ms, an average candy, almost always taste chalky and expired in fun size.

Candy Corns don’t exist outside of the Halloween oeuvre, and they are generally considered the worst of all candies not named Necco Wafers, with a flavor profile that suggests someone tried to create the candy version of sweetened Country Crock artificial butter.

Laffy Taffy does not exactly bring its consumer back to the days of eating candy while walking along the 1930s Atlantic City boardwalk.

And Whoppers, already a downgraded version of the superior British Malteasers, taste, in fun size form, like the textural embodiment of ennui.

Candy itself, mostly in the form of bougie $14 Mast Brothers-style chocolate bars, has an entire artisanal line now. But whereas other mass produced food products in America, like canned tomato sauce or chips, have made at least nominal ornamental changes in an effort to ingratiate themselves with the increasing number of Americans who fancy themselves food-conscious, aside from rolling out increasingly weirder flavors of M&Ms and putting all their money into offering the Asian markets fantastic Kit-Kat flavors, Big Candy has done none of these things, and the Halloween lines of big candy are the lowest end, because these are the ones companies know will be given away for free.

This is kind of crazy to think about on its own -- that there is an entire subset of the candy business dedicated to providing candy that’ll just be given away — but there, I think, is where we find the answer to why Halloween candy is so damn bad. With this holiday that requires a household spend, on average, around $22 (Americans spend nearly $3 billion total on Halloween candy) on something we will be giving away, we’ve essentially created our own shitty economic loop: the companies put their least amount of ingredient and production resources into the Halloween lines, and we buy the lowest end product because we have to give it away anyway.

And so kids all over the country, dressed as Blonde Pete Davidsons and Sexy Robert Muellers, collect that candy and then tithe a portion to their parents, who might sit down at the end of a long night of giving Hot Tamales to teenagers who didn’t even bother dressing up aside from wearing a slightly larger than normal shirt, and bite into lemon Starbursts, and weird Twizzlers, and chalky M&Ms, and realize that someone needs to break this cycle of Halloween candy mediocrity.

Or at least only buy Reese's Peanut Butter cups.

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Kevin Alexander is actually one of the Mast Brothers. Buy his line of artisanal Twizzlers @KAlexander03.