No matter the time of year, gifts for candy lovers are always in season. Celebrate National Candy Month with a gift of gourmet candy for someone special.
National Candy Month is an annual celebration of the treats that give you a welcomed sugar rush anytime they hit your tongue. Whether you’re looking for a snack between meals or treating yourself to dessert after a healthy salad, candy is one of life’s treasures. Although National Candy Month is only in June, different holidays are celebrated year-round with a wide array of candies marking the occasion. From candy corn on Halloween to peppermint hearts for Valentine’s Day, you’re never too far from an excuse to indulge your sweet tooth.
Gourmet Candy: A Sweet History Lesson
Candy comes in a dizzying variety of shapes, sizes, and flavors. From the hard and brittle to the fun and decorative, candy has a rich past. The first “piece” of candy dates all the way back to 1500 B.C., when Egyptians covered various fruits and nuts in honey to make them taste sweeter. If we fast-forward to the Middle Ages, sugar candy was such a high-priced treat, it was reserved only for royalty.
The industrial revolution was a key turning point in the history of candy in America. While fine confectioneries still remained, children of the American working class were spending more and more money at their local candy store. In 1847, the invention of the candy press made it easier to create multiple variations of the same piece of candy, and in the process streamlined production.
It wasn’t until the second half of the 20th century that candy started to take the form we have come to know and love today. In the span of 50 years, Smarties® (1949), Starburst® (1954), SweeTARTS® (1963), Jelly Belly® Jelly Beans (1976), and Gummi Bears (1980) were invented, and introduced into American culture. During the period, the confectionery world saw a significant spike in profit due to some pretty sweet innovations.
Today, while you can still find artisan confectioners making gourmet candy by hand in some of the biggest cities in the world, candy has grown into a mainstream business. One aspect driving confectionery businesses’ popularity forward is movie theaters all across the globe. The average movie theater concession stand in America accounts for roughly 85% of profit for that theater. Some popular snacks when attending a film include popcorn, licorice and fruit snacks.
What Is the Most Popular Candy in the World?
This distinction varies from country to country, but in the U.S. it’s by far M&M’s®. Produced by Mars, M&M’s annual sales regularly break the $600 million mark. The colorful button-sized chocolates come in six different colors (brown, red, orange, yellow, green, and blue). An original color, violet, was replaced by tan in the late 1940s; tan was replaced by blue in 1995. Red was temporarily replaced by orange in 1976 due to health concerns over FD&C Red #2, even though M&M’s were never made with it. Red M&M’s returned in 1987. At Mars’ main factory, 2 billion M&M’s are produced every 8 hours.
Another popular candy is candy corn. Sold primarily during Halloween, 35 million pounds of candy corn are produced each year. The mixture of sugar, corn syrup, and confectioner’s wax was invented by George Renninger of the Wunderle Candy Company® in 1880 and originally called “Chicken Feed”. Gustav Goelitz started making candy corn in 1900 and eventually started the Jelly Belly® candy company. Today, Jelly Belly® and Brach’s® are the main producers of candy corn.
While America consumes the most candy in the world in total retail volume, it’s not even in the top five in consumption per capita. In 2016, the average German ate 28.7 pounds of candy. The average American ate around 22 pounds.
Although some varieties of candy can be considered rare delicacies, fudge is a common and popular gourmet treat. Fudge is not actually considered chocolate—although chocolate is the most popular flavor—but a fondant (thick paste of sugar and heated water). Legend has it that fudge was invented by mistake when candy makers over-crystallized a batch of candy. Fudge first appeared in America when college-aged women started to sell it during the industrial revolution in New York and Baltimore.
The flavors of different candies from around the world are as diverse as the cultures they come from, but there is no mistaking the cooling effect you feel whenever you bite into something with mint flavoring. The popular flavor is derived from one of several varieties of mint (usually peppermint or spearmint, but there are more than 30 varieties of the herb) and is popular in candy canes, chewing gum, and even some chocolates. The cooling effect comes from the compound menthol, found in the plant’s essential oil, and makes eating mints a pleasantly refreshing experience.
Whatever your favorite candy is, it always has the ability to make any moment just a little sweeter.