When I was little, my mom would pour candy corn into various displays around the house every October. Into candle holders, sprinkled into centerpieces, candy corn would find its way scattered across the house for my mother’s Halloween decor. But when my mom would leave the house, whether it was to walk the dog or take the trash out, I would strike. Sticking my little hands into bowls they weren’t supposed to be stuck into, I’d come out with handfuls of candy corn, acting fast enough to grab and run back to my room to eat my snack in safety all before my mom walked back in the front door. Eventually, my mother noticed that her decorations seemed to be thinning out, and she confronted me about my candy corn habits.
I couldn’t help it, I love candy corn. I’m not ashamed to admit that it’s my favorite Halloween treat. Incredibly polarizing, I’ve found it’s one of the candies that people are pretty passionate about. Whether or not you like the candy will tell you a lot about a person. But regardless of your feelings surrounding candy corn consumption, candy corn is still one of the most popular holiday candies. In fact, it’s the second most popular Halloween candy according to the National Confectioners Association. The only thing it falls behind is chocolate. Something automatically associated with Halloween, it has its own designated day (Oct. 30th, for anyone looking to celebrate), and it comes in a variety of colors and flavors expanding the market beyond the usual spooky season.
Candy corn’s history wasn’t always linked to the month of October. In fact, when it was first created, it wasn’t called candy corn at all. It was created around the 1880s, when the market for farm-themed candies was at its highest (if you can believe there ever was a time). While never officially confirmed, the inventor of candy corn was George Renninger, who was an employee at the Wunderle Candy Company in Philadelphia. While they were the first company to start selling the treat, Goelitx, now known as the Jelly Belly Candy Company, popularized it. Marketed as “Chicken Feed,” it was a candy sold at all times of the year, not just Halloween. As a penny candy, it could be bought for cheap, making it easily accessible to the general public. But during the 1950s, as trick or treating began to become commonplace, Halloween started to become more and more connected to candy, and Chicken Feed began to be advertised specifically during this time of the year. As the years went on, Halloween became the perfect holiday to market a product associated with sweets, good times, and children. In the 1970s, candy officially became a Halloween specialty. Over time, this mixture of sugar, fondant, corn syrup, vanilla flavor, and marshmallow creme became synonymous with an increasingly commercialized Halloween tradition.
For every lover of candy corn, there is an equally passionate hater. Known affectionately as Satan’s earwax or the “shed baby teeth of tiny toddler demons” as one Twitter user put it, it inspires the most creative insults. Yet even among fans, there’s debate. Do you eat the whole kernel? Do you start with the yellow or the white end? Do you like the pumpkins? Every October, these questions work their way back into my mind, and I spend the rest of the month pondering and enjoying my slim amount of socially acceptable time to be eating raw sugar.
So as the years go on, I’ll keep sticking my hands into the halloween centerpieces made by mothers everywhere, just to grab a little kernel of chicken feed, and I encourage you to do the same.
Cover photo courtesy of Food and Wine