Looking back: Halloween candy through the years
As soon as the first kernel of candy corn hits stores in the fall, children (and their parents) start salivating as they imagine their Halloween haul. “As soon as you open the box, that sugar smell makes you think of trick-or-treating,” said Gerry Cohen, who grew up in his father’s candy store, Economy Candy. Cohen now owns the store, and, not too surprisingly, Halloween is his favorite holiday.
Chocolate bars like Snickers, Baby Ruth and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups have been around for as long as trick-or-treating has been an American tradition, but Cohen remembers the penny candy he grew up seeing on the shelves of his father’s shop, which opened in 1937.
1950s: Mary Janes, Tootsie Rolls, Good & Plenty and Smarties could all be found in a Baby-Boomer’s Halloween haul, Cohen said. “And always the wax lips and mustaches,” he added. Homemade treats, like popcorn balls and candied apples, were also part of the fun. (Note: Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF was also launched in the 1950s.)
1960s: “Charms got into the act in the 1960s,” Cohen said. “Blow Pops and lollipops got into the mix.” Trick-or-Treaters of this generation also remember receiving small toys or baseball cards while making their rounds.
1970s: “In the 1970s, kids might find Bazooka Bubble Gum in their bags,” Susan Whiteside, a spokeswoman for the National Confectioners Association, said. Pop Rocks were also first offered in 1975.
1980s: Sour Patch Kids busted on to the scene in the early 1980s, creating a “whole new taste profile,” Whiteside said. “We’d had Lemonheads, but this was a new take on sour candy that kids really liked, and adults didn’t like. That, of course, made kids like them even more.” Swedish Fish and gummy candies also became popular in the 1980s.
1990s: Candy companies continued to diversify their offerings. Peanut Butter M&M’s, DOVE chocolate bars and Starburst Jelly Beans all hit the shelves in snack size portions perfect for doling out to the neighborhood kids.
2000s: Although Candy Corn is Halloween’s most recognizable candy, until recently, it was only available in bulk. Now single-serving packages of candy corn, Halloween-themed Marshmallow Peeps and single sticks of gum find their way into Trick-or-Treaters’ pillowcases, and companies started offering bags of assorted candies for shoppers who like variety, Whiteside said.
2010: “Gummy eyeballs are a huge hit,” said Alison Oblonsky, owner of Dewey’s Candy in DUMBO. Chocolate-covered Peeps are new this year. Other ghastly goodies include the Candy Blood Bag (full of cherry-flavored liquid that is sipped through a straw) and Vampire Hair (cotton candy with pop rocks). “The crazier, the better,” Oblonsky said.
1. Economy Candy passes out candy to all the kids on Halloween, beginning about 2pm and lasting until every last Trick-or-Treater is served. And, yes, all employees come in costume.
2. About 60 percent of the candy brands on the market when Trick-or-Treating began (soon after World War II) are still sold today, according to the National Confectioners Association.