Sitting in her Wiggins, Miss., home one fall afternoon, Wanda King began counting all the candy corn flavors she’d collected over the years.
His fingers soon ran out.
There are sea salt chocolate, caramel, peppermint, cookies, starburst, sour patch kids, apple pie, pumpkin pie, s’mores, and three different coffee flavors. Others are a little more imaginative, like blackberry cobbler. Some are holiday themed, such as eggnog and witch’s teeth, which are white with a green tip. Others in her collection try to mimic the food — like a brunch-flavored bag with kernels that taste like French toast, waffles, and pancakes.
Taking a deep breath, Ms. King, 62, said she has about 40 varieties, which she stores neatly in Mason jars in the guest bedroom.
“This is the ultimate survival sugar rush,” she said, noting that she had recently tested the freshness of a batch from 2017. “Candy corn doesn’t go bad. It’ll last forever.”
Ms. King and her husband, Danny King, run a youtube channel Dedicated to his 10-acre home about 30 miles north of Gulfport. His involvement with candy corn began as a joke about six years ago and grew with the help of viewers, some of whom sent him bags to try.
Although Ms. King is referred to by some of her friends as the “Candy Corn Queen”, there is a line she will not cross.
“I couldn’t see candy corn that tasted like turkey,” she said. “And people sent me a MEME Of pizza with candy corn, and I can’t see eating candy corn pizza. I just can’t.”
Chicken feed, as candy corn was originally called because of its appearance, was invented during the candy boom in the United States in the late 1880s by the Wunderley Candy Company, food historian and president of True Treats Susan Benjamin said in a research- candy store located in West Virginia.
Chicken feed and other dishes like it were marketed to working-class children. “It was the first time they could see themselves as part of the middle class because they could go out and buy something,” Ms Benjamin said. “That thing was made for them and suited their tastes and that was candy.”
Chicken feed was initially popular year-round. It is unclear when it became a particular Halloween sensation, but research suggests it was probably around the middle of the 20th century.
By the 1940s, trick-or-treating was growing in popularity in the United States as candy makers became adept at packaging small snacks. “This would explain why candy corn became a natural fit for trick-or-treat, because it had everything,” Ms. Benjamin said, adding that it reminded people of harvest rituals, given its appearance. It was festive and it was cheap.
“Candy corn is a triumph of being one of the few candies left today, leaving behind thousands of these candies that were created in the 1800s,” he said. Have you ever heard of sen-sen, spruce resin gum or banana split taffy? Probably not. But candy corn, she said, “Still exists and we still use it.” He added, “You still find it everywhere in decoration and food.”
Candy corn is sold widely throughout the United States today. Jelly Belly Candy Co., which has been manufacturing candy corn since 1898, when it was called Goelitz Confectionery Co., produced about 65 million candy corns last fiscal year, a spokeswoman said. Brach’s, a competitor, produces about 30 million pounds of candy corn each year, a spokeswoman said. Brach’s claims to be the No. 1 producer of candy corn, producing 88 percent of the candy corn sold in the United States.
With so much sweet corn on the market, who’s eating it? How else? According to a recent survey, 51 percent of Americans eat the entire piece at one sitting, and 31 percent begin nibbling smaller pieces at the narrow white end. By National Confectioners Association, The remaining 18 percent start at the yellow end.
No matter how it’s eaten, candy corn routinely tops lists of the most divisive dishes, along with black licorice and circus peanuts, Ms. Benjamin said. Each fall, when pumpkins take center stage and candy is sold by the bucketful, a feud breaks out between candy corn lovers and haters.
Key Lee, 29, a content creator in New York City, is among the haters. “It didn’t need to be made,” she said, blaming the extremely sweet taste, which she described as being like maple syrup.
Comedian Lewis Black dislikes her scruffy appearance. He said, “I don’t even know how to describe the taste of it because it’s one of the few things on the planet that tastes like poop.”
And it’s been nearly 30 years since Ray Garton, a 60-year-old horror novelist from Northern California, last ate candy corn. “It’s the consistency, how it feels between my teeth and the taste,” he said. “It’s too sweet. I shudder just thinking about it.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Melissa Cady, 38, who owns an Etsy shop in Hollis, Maine. While she loves eating candy corn, she also loves dressing up like it. “If I see candy corn stuff, I’m automatically attracted to it,” she said. “I’ve been collecting candy corn things for a while now,
Ms. Cady has other merchandise including candy-corn colored buttons, earrings, headbands, sweaters, clothes and ceramic candy corn trees. “It seems like big box retailers have completely caught on to the candy corn craze and there’s money to be made in it besides the actual candy,” he said.
Every year, she shares a bag with her husband, and they have no plans to give it up. “I completely agree with all the people who say: ‘It’s disgusting. It has a weird, waxy texture,'” she said. “I completely understand where they’re coming from, but then again I’ll eat it too. Is that weird?”