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Candy is a simple pleasure enjoyed by almost everyone. No matter if you’re young, old, rich, poor, fit, or fat, you’ve probably got a favorite candy. And there’s plenty of facts to behold behind that treat.
1. The recipe for basic candy is a simple one — dissolve sugar in water. Different types of candy will be produced by adjusting the heating level of the water: Cool temps make chewy candy; medium heat makes soft candy; and the highest heat will produce hard candy.
2. Economic analysts note that candy sales do not appear to be affected by recessions. Although candy is not a necessary staple of diets, low candy prices often allow people to splurge on these treats without guilt. (Although sugar was much more expensive during the European middle ages. Then only the wealthy could afford it.)
3. Other than candyholics (you know who you are), most people don’t eat too much candy. Less than 2% of the calories in the total American diet come from candy.
4. To no one’s shock, candy sales are highest around holidays. Halloween takes top prize in the US with 600 million pounds sold (this includes 90 million pounds of chocolate). Easter takes second place with 65 million pounds sold, and Valentine’s Day snags third place with 48 pounds sold.
5. The top selling candy may surprise you: Candy corn, also known in some circles as “chicken feed.” Although many people (including yours truly) do not see the appeal of this confection, 20 million pounds of candy corn are sold annually in the US. (Follow-up sellers include Snickers, Reese’s peanut butter cups, Kit-Kats, and M&Ms.)
6. Cotton candy existed in the 18th century as an expensive, hand-spun delicacy in Europe. The widely-available machine-spun version was co-invented in 1897 by a dentist, Williams james Morrison, in Nashville, Tennessee. Their electric candy machine brought their “fairy floss” to the public in 1904.
7. Atomic Fireballs are made from the same spicy molecule as hot peppers. The Ferrera Candy Company adds a touch of Capsaicin — about 3500 Scoville Heat Hunits or the same as a jalapeno pepper — to each individual candy.
8. Chocolate-covered cherries receive their liquid centers from enzymes. Each cherry is coated a paste that includes invertase (an enzyme that breaks down sugar) and rolled in chocolate. Each cordial is stored for a few weeks, which allows the enzyme to break down the cherry, thereby liquefying the cherry in its own syrup. All the work is done from within, which is why you don’t see a hole in the chocolate.
7. Rock candy is made through several phases that last for days. The sugar is heated up to the highest, hard-ball stage and slowly cooled. This allows rocky sugar crystals to form under Le Chatelier’s Principle, which explains how the slow cooling process encourages crystalization.
9. Want to blow a really huge gum bubble? Chew it until the sugar is all gone because sugar doesn’t stretch. Try too early, and your efforts will be wasted.
10. Wax lips were invented in the early 20th century and are still kicking in limited quantities. Made from paraffin wax (a byproduct of kerosene distillation), these candies are aren’t known for their amazing taste but for their novelty factor. They are edible but usually tossed aside after the comic effect wears off. Also available in “horse’s teeth” with an evergreen flavor and “vampire fangs.”
11. Mars, Incorporated remains one of the most successful manufacturers of confectionary products. They produce 3 Musketeers, Starburst, Mars bars, Skittles, Dove Chocolate, M&Ms, Milky Way, Twix, and more. The company averages $30 billion in annual global sales and remains a family-owned business.
12. The 3 Musketeers candy bar was invented in 1932 by Mars. The treat takes its name for its original recipe, which contained three flavors (chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry) of nougat. The company wisely changed the recipe in 1945 to just one flavor (chocolate) of nougat, which is made from whipped eggs, sugar syrup, and flavoring.
13. The Snickers bar was invented in 1930 and named after a horse, who was a favorite animal of Frank Mars. The tasty chocolate and peanut confection remains the number-one selling candy bar in the United States. In the United Kingdom, this candy bar was known as the “Marathon” bar until 1990. The sudden name change to “Snickers” affected sales drastically in the UK.
14. Special M&M flavors have gotten really wild over the years. If you’re bored by chocolate or peanut-butter flavors, you may occasionally get lucky and score some of the others: Red velvet, carrot cake, vanilla shake, birthday cake, pumpkin spice, cinnamon, wild cherry, gingerbread, and … pineapple.
15. The Dum Dum’s “mystery” flavor is produced by a necessary accident. The flavor is created when the sucker-making machine switches over from an old to a new flavor. When it comes to these mystery flavors, it’s usally a case of waste not AND want not.
16. Don’t worry about mixing Pop Rocks and soft drinks. It’s perfectly okay to blend the carbonated candy with carbonated beverages, and it will not cause anyone’s stomach to explode. Of course, the results can get a little messy. The FDA even issued a statement (and set up a hotline: 1-800-DEATH-POP) to quash the urban myth, but the rumor still circulates to this day.
17. Eating more candy at one sitting causes fewer cavities than spacing candies throughout the day. Why? Eating more candy at once will cause the mouth to produce more saliva than with just once piece. Saliva works to neutralize the corrosive acids from candy. With only once piece, more acid is produced than saliva. So go forth and chow down!