Food

Candy corn is divisive. Hot-dog-flavored candy corn is not

It's annually derided in a wave of disgust as predictable as the changing leaf colors, with social media critics likening the candy to "melted down traffic cones" and what would happen "if bad breath was chewy."

alt = yellow-, orange-, and white-colored candy corn
APimages


For all of the sugar it contains, candy corn elicits plenty of bitterness. The kernel-shaped, tricolor Halloween treat has long taunted its haters merely by appearing on shelves every fall, alongside the plastic skeletons for your lawn and the bags of mini chocolate bars that trick-or-treaters actually covet.

It’s annually derided in a wave of disgust as predictable as the changing leaf colors, with social media critics likening the candy to “melted down traffic cones” and what would happen “if bad breath was chewy.”

I like to think that the folks going into a state of incandescent rage over a mere lump of candy are doing so all in good fun, essentially giving themselves a pressure valve to rant about something inconsequential instead of the very real menaces out there that actually threaten our existence. (It’s far less terrifying to contemplate the candy aisle than our news feeds, after all.)

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The makers of candy corn probably understand that their products suffer both from a PR problem and from being pigeonholed into a single, short season. The ever-expanding genre of flavored candy corn seems to be their neat double solution. Among the bags of traditional autumnal-colored candy corns, you can now find their vibrantly hued cousins whose flavors range from juicy summer fruits to . . . hot dogs.

I gathered some bags of these candy-aisle interlopers and invited colleagues to taste them with me. Here’s what we thought:

Brach’s Tailgate

The most recognizable purveyor of candy corn is no stranger to novelty. Last year, it sold candy corn that mimicked Thanksgiving dinner dishes, including turkey and green beans, and it also memorably produced “taco truck”-inspired jelly beans. Its entry this year is marketed as an homage to foods you might eat at a tailgate, though I think of light beer and flasks of bourbon before the candy maker’s lineup of fruit punch, vanilla ice cream, popcorn, hot dog and hamburger.

As might be expected, we found the vanilla and fruit-punch varieties to be inoffensive. The popcorn – buttery, with a slight note of smoke to suggest a bag of kernels burned in a microwave – was slightly worse. The meaty ones, though, were another story – in a word, vile. The hot-dog-flavored variety proved the milder of the two, which was merciful. “Sour and rotten,” pronounced one taster. “I don’t know what’s happening, but I hate it,” said another, between chews. But the bolder hamburger version induced the most gags. Sample reactions: “Puke in your mouth”; “cough medicine meat”; and “blerggh,” the sound of disgust one colleague made while spitting the offending thing into a napkin.

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I assume the gross-out is the point, though, akin to the Jelly Belly game BeanBoozled, which last Christmas had my nieces shrieking as they bit into green jelly beans, wondering whether they would taste like pears or boogers, or the Bertie Bott’s jellies from the Harry Potter books whose flavors include earwax and vomit. The Brach’s candy corn seemed to be going for the same Russian-roulette effect, since the flavors were jumbled and the colors weren’t an immediate giveaway.

Brach’s Funfetti

Exactly the opposite of the company’s daunting, nausea-inducing “meat” candies, these were all about innocently sweet appeal. Pastel-colored with flakes of confetti, these looked like a party – and they tasted, we concluded, exactly like one, or rather, a dead ringer for their namesake super-sugary cake mix.

If nostalgia is behind the continued popularity of candy corn, this version fits right into its category – at least for people of a certain age (Funfetti cakes were de rigueur at 1990s parties). “It reminds me of birthday cakes I used to have,” said one colleague.

Fruidles Raspberry Lemonade

These red, white and blue triangles were a clear example of Big Candy Corn trying to horn in on other holidays. They looked so much like those classic summertime ice pops that some tasters were confused by their flavor; it wasn’t the expected layering of cherry, lime and raspberry, but rather a one-note lemon.

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Even so, some people liked the lighter profile. “I could eat a bunch of these,” said one.

Zachary S’mores

Although it’s decidedly not the traditional candy-corn flavor, this entry, based on the gooey fireside snack, felt autumnally apropos. Tasters liked the cinnamon-spicy graham cracker notes. “I’m getting like a burned marshmallow thing here, and I like it,” said one taster.

Nerds

“That’s not candy corn” summed up our collective take on this sweet-tart candy. These riffs on the now-classic Nerds (the product turns 40 next year) come in strawberry/grape, strawberry-lemon/blue raspberry and orange/cherry-watermelon, with a crunchy candy coating and a chewy interior.

While many liked the puckery sensation they offered, the knock on them was that these are candy corn in name (and shape) only. It seems that for people who actually enjoy candy corn, the Nerds version didn’t hit the mark for the very reason the candy is so polarizing to begin with. “You want them to be waxy,” lamented one taster. “That’s why you eat candy corn.”

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