The Candy Hierarchy (2012)

By David Ng and Ben Cohen for BOING BOING

Candy culture plays a particularly prominent role during Halloween, especially in terms of providing what we describe as "joy induction." Consequently, the "Candy Hierarchy" is a concerted effort to provide systematics that define a candy taxonomy in order of desirability and with the expressed idea of maximizing such joy. Each year, through the tireless efforts by teams of researchers, the ranking receives peer review in the form of comments left. This brings new data that are then tabulated and incorporated into each revised edition.  

The Candy Hierarchy has been a work in progress since 2006 when initiated by B.R. Cohen, an environmental historian over at Lafayette College, and has since been published in a variety of venues.  In 2010, with collaboration from David Ng, a geneticist based at the University of British Columbia, the hierarchy established an exclusive relationship with the highly reputable journal Boing Boing. This then allowed a significant increase in feedback from the peer review community due to the journal's high citation index.  

We, the authors, have greatly profited from this peer community feedback. That is to say, we almost got rich — the Hierarchy was optioned by a few Hollywood types and months were spent in writers' rooms hammering out a pilot for NBC, before having the whole thing axed once it became clear NBC was not a thing anymore. But we got to keep the money.  And we bought candy with it. And now here we are.  So on with it already.  

Discussion: There comes a time, when we heed a certain call. When the world. Must come, together as one.  That time is now. We can't go on, pretending day by day, that someone, somehow will make a change. Therefore, presented within is the newly reformulated Ng and Cohen Candy Hierarchy. This taxonomy updates the 2011 edition, which culled massive peer review in the form of several hundred comments, and by including the latest research findings.  

As with prior iterations, we placed a high value on this process, since past attempts (see previous versions 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2010) produced noteworthy revelations, including establishment of reference samples, now understood as index candies, as well as the discovery of the importance of caramel in defining the upper tiers.    

Along with minor adjustments, two new broadly defined features stand out this year.  One is the discovery through spectral analysis of a mint-based layer (you can almost taste it just by reading it, right?); two is the demotion of American chocolate products from their prior (and erroneous) exalted placement near the top.  Clearly, that earlier placement was a remnant of North Ameri-centric cultural commitments that somehow (damn you post-modernism!) snuck in to the lab. We’d prefer to blame the children for this flaw, those doing the grunt work of tricking and treating, though we shouldn't — colleagues in biology recently confirmed that they are our future — but come on, it had to be their fault. So chocolate is all in a tizzy and the tectonic shift this year comes from a groundswell of new research coming from our international contributors, the basic thrust of which is that European chocolates embarrass Hershey's. (This does open things up to a probable adjustment next year to account for a global account, not just Western.) Hershey’s Dark Chocolate stands a chance, but all in all, the Cadbury’s, the Lindt's, the Nestle's, the Ferroroses of the world are the aristocrats to Hershey’s proletarians, the hoities to American toities, the Prince Williams and Harrys to our Prince Fielders and Bonnie Prince Billys. Having said that, it sort of doesn’t matter that much anyway.  Kids still won’t snag a Lindt Truffle before a Hershey's Kiss, so what can you do.  

Interestingly, this particular discourse led to heated discussions on the overall reliability of our peer review process.  If we could so easily miss the contrasting nature of North American and European perspectives, then might there be larger biases at play?    And then, literally at the very moment when our voices had reached an ugly and angry crescendo and fingers were pointing with blame, LIKE AN OMEN FROM THE HEAVENS (or at least somewhere approximating a breathtaking view of the Milky Way from Mars), we received word of a most relevant piece of research.  

Yes, it was research with real data, collected from real children.

And not only that, it clearly laid out, in a sort of pencilly scientific table kind of way, that only a paltry third of the participants queried even bothered to single out chocolate as a preference!  

Of course, we should note that these were Canadian children, so one could argue that the data is hardly what you might call trustworthy.  Nevertheless, if taken at face value, it would suggest that this Candy Hierarchy is a potentially invalid piece of work.  Or put another way, might we be witnessing a paradigm shift, perhaps?  

And so, let us also apply some caution to this current Candy Hierarchy, as well as offer a plea for more children-centric candy data.   This will be good for candy, good for science, good (dare I say) for the world, and certainly good for our continued search for a TV pilot since Disney or Nickelodeon might now take note.  

And please, please remember that we do this because this here is relevant stuff.  It affects the mindset of our planet, truly.  Indeed, it was only recently, that we learned that our Hierarchy has been applied to broader research programs.  Although we were not cited in this report, recent studies by Franz H. Messerli, M.D., show that those countries receiving more Nobel Prizes also eat more chocolate.  [from Chocolate Consumption, Cognitive Function, and Nobel Laureates (October 10, 2012DOI: 10.1056/NEJMon1211064), New England Journal of Medicine.]  But now in light of our new observations (albeit observations recorded with shaky handwriting and some minor spelling mistakes), we are forced to ask whether this research was performed under a chocolate bias paradigm and subsequent flawed methodology.  

In conclusion, then, and as we present this year's hierarchy, we can honestly say, without hyperbole, that this is the biggest, most significant categorization that has ever been created. Big and significant because there is so, so much at stake.  So remember, it's not your father's candy hierarchy.  It's your kids. Sort of.




(caramel, chewy, elegant)

Any full-sized candy bar[1] — Caramellos[2] — Milky Way — Snickers — Rolos[3] — Twix — Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups — Cash, or other forms of legal tender[4] — Cadbury Creme Eggs[5] — Goo Goo Clusters[6]


(a minor disruption in the stratigraphic sequence, this recently identified vein of mint is)
Mint M&Ms — Junior Mints — York Peppermint Patties — Senior Mints — Mint Kisses — Mint Leaves — Mint Juleps — Anything from the Franklin Mint


(not surprisingly, it’s predominantly chocolate-based)
Hershey’s Kissables — Lindt Truffle — Nestle Crunch — Peanut M&M’s — Regular M&Ms[7] — Three Musketeers[8] — Kit Kat — Dark Chocolate Hershey — Tolberone something or other [9]


(oh look, mostly chocolate, just not as good)
Mounds — Tootsie Rolls — Whoppers[10] — Fair Trade Chocolate[11] — Butterfinger — Pay Day — Baby Ruth — Swedish Fish[12] — Almond Joy — Cadbury’s Creme Eggs[5] — Ferrero Rocher[13]


(the chewy range or, in some circles, the Upper Chewy or Upper Devonian)
Milk Duds — Benzedrine -- Jolly Ranchers (if a good flavor) — [14] — Starburst — Skittles — Stale Tootsie Rolls — Licorice (not black) — Reggie Jackson Bar — Bonkers[15] — 100 Grand Bar — Heath Bar — a DVD copy of Candy, starring Heath Ledger — Minibags of chips [16] — Glow sticks — Hershey’s Milk Chocolate


(the Lower Chewy or Middle Crunchy Tart Layer)
Dots — Lollipops — Nerds — Runts — Trail Mix — Mary Janes — Gummy Bears straight up — White Bread — Spree — Black Licorice — Anything from Brach's[17] — Hard Candy — Bubble Gum — Including the Chiclets (but not the erasers) — Black Jacks — LemonHeads — LaffyTaffy — Good N' Plenty — Jolly Ranchers (if a bad flavor) — Bottle Caps — American Smarties [18] — Chalk [18] — "those odd marshmallow circus peanut things" — gum from baseball cards — candy that is clearly just the stuff given out for free at restaurants — ribbon candy — Candy: A Novel of Love and Addiction, by Luke Davies.

Tier so low it does not register on our equipment [13]

Healthy Fruit[20] — Pencils [21]— Hugs (actual physical hugs)[21] — Lapel Pins — Extra Strength Tylenol — Pebbles — "anonymous brown globs that come in black and orange wrappers" — Now'n'Laters[22] — Whole Wheat anything — “good tidings”, or “helpful advice” or renewed calls to “get the F- off my porch or I’ll call social services on your Mom again, Jason!” — broken glow stick — kale smoothie

Benjamin R. Cohen & David Ng

The hierarchy is also available in PDF format for easy printing

1. Because like, score! (Bcsizemo, 2010)

2. a.k.a. God's Candy

3. These may be rolled to a friend.

4. Not sure if this should be included. Systematics are still on going – denomination appears to be key.

5. Appropriate ranking may depend entirely on date of purchase versus date of opening. Experts in this field often refer to this dichotomy as "fresh CCE" versus "stale CCE," or FCCE versus SCCE (Beschizza, 2011). Note that its interior has also been described as "pustulent." (Petersen, 2010)

6. Sometimes spousal influence forces these placements as with, ahem, this primarily southern delicacy.

7. Includes comparable Commonwealth version of "Smarties." (Devo, Legionabstract, gadgetgirl  et al, 2011) 

8. Although has also been classified as packing material (Cunning, 2010)

9. This and the Lindt one are higher quality, which makes it strange that trick-or-treaters just don't want them.

10. Whoppers blow.

11. The authors are curious as to which neighborhoods you belong to.

12. Admittedly an outlier – like that fish you’ve seen on television. You know - the one which looks like it can breathe air and stuff.

13. Whose value comes as payoff to parents, as children do not rank this highly.

14. Still a contentious subject with a rich history of controversy. Briefly: Candy Corn, as of 2006, remained unclassified, but as of 2007 had been tentatively placed in the Upper Chewy/Upper Devonian. 2008: no sighting. In recent years, we have elected to leave in the same tier as consensus has yet to be determined.

15. The discontinued candy, not the equally rankable discontinued board game.

16. Oh smack, can you even imagine if you got Fritos?

17. Unless it's something caramel, pronounced "caramel."

18. By some accounts, these two are actually one and the same (Gadgetgirl, 2010)

19. Yet some would be just as well to be left off. Bit-o-Honey, for example, might be called a lower tier member, but why bother? It says to your trick-or-treaters, "Here, I don't care, just take this." The lesson of Bit-o-Honey is: you lose. Doorstep offers of lectures in civics, too. You're making a social statement--"I hate you and everything you represent"-- when you give these out.

20. Yes, we really meant fruit that is healthy, clean-cut upstanding fruit that takes time from its gym membership and all the demands that come with it to contribute a positive message of citizenship and camaraderie to the community.  This isn't a typo of healthy for healthful. (see U.M.H. 2011)

21. Research has further defined this relationship. Currently, it has been suggested that Blackwing Pencils > Hugs > Creepy Hugs > Pencils. (Lobster, Prufrock451, and Warreno, 2010)

22. Unless you eat them properly. To quote Anonymous, 2010: "The trick to realizing how brilliant and delicious Now 'n Laters are is a two step process. The first step is to carefully read the name of the candy. "Now 'n Later." What does it mean, you ask? Well, it implies that the candy will be different "now" (when you put it in your mouth) and at some point "later" in time. A small leap of logic takes us to the second step: be patient. You need to suck on it for a while until it softens. If you skip this step, the Now 'n Later will be an inedible, rock-like colorful brick quite worthy of the low end of the hierarchy. But if you are patient in your candy-eating process, oh the rewards you will reap!"

B.R. Cohen is a professor, a writer, and a guy who used to blog with Dave Ng.  He teaches at Lafayette College in Easton, PA.

Dave Ng is a guy who used to blog with B.R. Cohen. He runs a science literacy lab at the University of British Columbia, and you can also find him on twitter.

Read this next: The best cheap, all-purpose juicer is the Omega 8003

117 Responses to “The Candy Hierarchy (2012)”

  1. Steven Stark says:

    Excellent list, but I must take issue with the inclusion of Mounds on the Second Tier listing. I am, however, in total agreement with Tootsie Rolls.

  2. bobcfarrell says:

    How can Cadbury’s Cream Eggs be on there twice (Top and 2nd tier)???

    • Scott Slemmons says:

       As the footnote mentions, if they’re fresh, they’re very, very good. If they’re not fresh, they are very, very bad.

  3. captain_cthulhu says:

    the bottom tier is missing: “anything dental-related”
    although I’d make special exception for those chewable tablets that turn your teeth red where you don’t brush well enough – staining your teeth/mouth blood-red does seem within the spirit of Halloween at least.

  4. The placement of Junior Mints above Tolberones renders me speechless.

  5. dragonfrog says:

    I am curious as to the data sources that got benzedrine on the list.  No footnote for that one?

  6. Philalethes says:

    This is pretty accurate, judging by how fast various candies disappear from my kids’ halloween bags. Tootsie Rolls are always last. I would put Mounds and Almond Joys much higher, though.

  7. You’ve tried to slip this flawed list past us once, we won’t fall for it again.


    Although given the prominence of American chocolate it was doomed from the get-go (I will admit that I’m a sucker for anything with peanut butter in it, and so divulge in chalky American chocolate on occasion). We need someone with the time/inclination to make an anywhere-but-the-US version.

    • Dean Putney says:

      Read: “slap a Kinder Surprise on there”.

    • Girard says:

       I’m a peanut butter nut myself, so much so that I think I’m the only person around who loves Mary Jane Peanut Butter kisses – those orange-and-black-wrapped peanut butter candies that seem pretty universally reviled.

      • I haven’t tried them myself – I’ll have to keep an eye open!

        I still haven’t seen any decent peanut butter chocolate products though – a good quality chocolate with a good quality whole-nut peanut butter. Although actually that would be far too salty… which likely explains the crumminess of the currently available options actually.

      • franko says:

        the fact that mary janes are placed so low (along with black licorice & good & plenty!) invalidates this entire list. it was flawed in the past, and it still is.

      • Lexicat says:

        Sir STOP I am in utter agreement with you STOP uneaten and unwanted Mary Janes may be forwarded to my account FULL STOP

      • Brian Easton says:

        I used to hate Mary Janes until I realized that I had only had stale ones.

        • Donald Petersen says:

          Tough to find fresh ones.  They’re one of those things that usually taste like they shut down the plant back in 1993 and haven’t sold off the overstock yet.  But on the rare occasion you do sink your as-yet-unbroken teeth (if any) into one, you’ll fully realize the cosmic injustice of their poor reputation among the uninitiated.

      • Halloween_Jack says:

        You’re hardly the only person around who loves peanut butter toffee, and frankly, the list compilers’ chronic insistence on ranking them below circus peanuts, the vilest concoction ever created, grows tiresome. There’s no point in their putting out a list every year if they can’t fix this basic but grievous error.

    • Christopher says:

      I’m an American and am still wondering why Cadbury allowed themselves to be bought by Hershey. In a just universe it seemed like it should have been the other way around. 

      • Don’t get me started on the Kraft situation.

        Fortunately though Cadbury’s is really just our equivalent of Hershey’s – i.e. it’s nothing special (not that I don’t enjoy it).

    • Festus says:

       It is just that no one provides candy door-to-door outside the US. Not reliably. And not in the massive quantities of US suburbanites. You can live for years off the stored calories from a single swing through a Dallas exurb. Now, the quality is low, yes. Conceded.

  8. Andy Welfle says:

    I definitely need to agree with the reader who suggested that “Blackwing Pencils > Hugs > Creepy Hugs > Pencils”. I might event take it a bit further and suggest that Blackwings might even be worth a second or third-tier.

  9. I am pleased to see Swedish Fish elevated to a status more reflective of their actual quality, something that I have been advocating for years in this forum. I still maintain that this ranking system is clearly biased towards chocolate, and I think that is largely a factor of the authors assuming that chocolate will be the most highly ranked candy and then finding evidence to support their own bias. Clearly, there must be non-confirmatory data that is being thrown out. 

    For instance, I would argue that there needs to be an entire classification for vaguely gummi/taffy products in which two different flavors are smooshed or rolled together to create one single piece of candy — a process which my own research has shown to greatly improve the quality and desirability of the items in question. (See Koerth 1987, Koerth 1996, and Koerth-Baker 2007) So, for instance, a red Starburst and a yellow Starburst are, on their own, less highly ranking items (especially the yellow one) than a red and yellow Starburst which have been placed together so that the corners don’t align, then had those corners folded over onto one another, and then were rolled around in the hands to form an aesthetically appealing yellow and red ball. (Whether the ball was eaten all at once or in pieces did not seem to affect the outcome.) 

    I have found that this process of flavor blending and physical manipulation — which I have termed OCDelicious — is applicable to a host of fruity, gummi, and taffy products, including, but not limited to: Skittles, Laffy Taffy, gummi bears, Air Heads, and the aforementioned Starbursts (all flavors). It was once attempted with Now and Laters, but failed due to structural issues. (Koerth 1989) There is also a corresponding phenomenon that increases the desirability of Sweet Tarts when the red and blue tarts are eaten simultaneously. Although this phenomenon does not yet have a name. (Koerth 1999)

    • oasisob1 says:

      Franken-gummy bears!

    • welcomeabored says:

      I’ve tried candy blending with the many colors and flavors that salt water taffy come in these days.  I was impressed and delighted with how many combos were enhanced by the taffy flavor, hot buttered popcorn.  Try using a pasta mill and processing it like polymer clay.  Haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve been wondering if it’s possible to ‘Skinner’ blend the flavors.

      • Donald Petersen says:

        Now yer talkin’!  I’m embarrassed to admit that this approach was unknown to me until I ran into official instructions from, of all things, a jar of Jelly Bellies, which told me how to create new and exciting flavor combinations by eating certain jellybeans together.  And now I totally want to try it with salt water taffy.  Mmmm.  Haven’t had good salt water taffy in… well, a while now.  And before that last time, it was a very long time indeed.

    • Mark Dow says:

      There exists a combination of Skittle colors that exactly replicates Bazooka bubble gum flavor, but the recipe has been lost for more than a decade. Not that that’s a good thing.

    • DevinC says:

      I was astonished last October to find that Starbursts were indeed highly prized by many children, even above mini-size KitKats and other chocolate-based confections.  (I had been handing out the chocolates in the delusion that I was giving the kids the best stuff.)  So there’s at least anecdotal evidence to suggest that chocolate is not necessarily the zenith of candy desirability.   

      While I don’t recall ever getting Gummi Bears for Hallowe’en, my penchant for using them as recreational surgery subjects has continued well into my nominally adult years.  

      • Donald Petersen says:

        In the days when I had to trade candies with my chocolate-allergic sister, I’d trade away all my Starbursts except the pink strawberry ones.  I’m no strawberry fetishist, but damn, those were better than they had any right to be.  At some point, Wrigley figured this out, and for a while they sold all-strawberry packs.

        Those were the days.

  10. blueelm says:

    I always suspected my taste in candy was somewhat skewed. This confirms it. Poor kids who come to my house end up getting the candy *I* feel like eating! 

    Explains the eggings.

      • Kevin Pierce says:

        Are you referring to these things?

        Hard call: Does the alcohol content (a plus) outweigh the paraffin in the chocolate?

        • They’re cute! I was referring to standard chocolate liquors (but I assume they’re the same aside from the shape) – hated by children and only occasionally enjoyed by adults.

          I’m not sure if the reference carries across the pond though, given the reaction I’m now wondering if you have them at all? Don’t think your missing out on much if you don’t though.

      • blueelm says:

        Dubbel Zout Liquorice!

        • I never have managed to get on with liquorice. I consider that a point against me though, rather than the confectionary.

        • Christopher says:

          My love of licorice when I was young was, at first, a point of some embarrassment. The other kids would say, “You like that? What’s wrong with you?” Although they were usually less eloquent in expressing their disdain.

          As I got older, though, I learned to embrace my love of licorice and to treat it the way I treat being left-handed, as something distinctive to be proud of. The only sad thing is I learned to embrace it around the time I outgrew* trick-or-treating.

          *Technically I’d still be trick-or-treating, but unlike enjoying licorice it’s an aspect where I find it harder to respond to the question “What’s wrong with you?”

          • Mark Dow says:

            Another grup, victim of the black plague. Tragic.

          • Christopher says:

            The real tragedy is, as far as I know, we’ve never met.

          • Donald Petersen says:

            Tragic indeed.  Think of the amusement the rest of us could have if we tossed a fat bag of that melted asphalt you two call “candy” between you and watched you both tear out each other’s gizzards over it!  You may think of yourselves as civilized gentlemen of honorable and peaceful demeanor, but nothing else can explain a taste for black licorice other than lunatic, face-chewing madness!!

            I don’t care for the stuff, personally.

  11. LaGrange says:

    This is obviously broken. The only thing that should get above licorice is proper damn salmiak.

  12. trackofalljades says:

    Someone left out the “box of raisins with the little fundamentalist card explaining that you’ve made Jesus sad and your parents are failures.” OTOH, it’s nice to know that not everyone grew up someplace where those were commonplace.

  13. lafave says:

    I like nerds and runts and any other sour/sweet candy. End candy stigmatization!

    • Kevin Pierce says:

      You can have mine!

    • blueelm says:

      I love Dots and Sour Patch Kids. In fact, as a child I actually would eat them until my mouth was full of ulcers. But they’re so goooood! I’m also a fan of mint gumdrops. Sign me up for the unpopular candy club. Oh and what about Hot Tamales? 

      Man, now I miss candy.

  14. Kevin Pierce says:

    I like how Glow Sticks are classified as “chewy”

    • ldobe says:

      Being a recovering raver, I can assure you that glowsticks are most definitely chewy.

      Right up to the point they start leaking glowing liquid and pulverized ampoule glass all over your face

  15. Anthrodiva says:

    My son is pro Ferrero-Rocher, though primarily as an artistic medium — he makes little mushrooms out of the packaging. For much the same reason (wax needs) he inveigles me into buying Bon Bel cheeses. 

    • I dribbled a little bit when I read ‘Ferrero-Rocher’. Bit fancy for Halloween though – I just turn the lights out and pretend I’m not home. If there’s chocolate to be eaten it shall be eaten by me.

  16. Jason Stahl says:

    I am shocked and dismayed at this lists complete lack of recognition for microwave popcorn. After years of field study, my research team and I have concludes that microwave popcorn is clearly a member of the “Top Tier”.

    Surprisingly, there appears to be no difference between a full sized bag versus a personal sized bag as the test subjects seem to be cognitively unable to judge bag size in the time it takes for it to leave the box and enter their bag. There is clearly opportunity for further study here, but my team and I have been unable to devise a method of observation that isn’t unethical due to the use of peeking in the windows of strangers.

  17. dmatos says:


  18. Ramone says:

    I DETEST those circus peanut things. Can’t even stand the faux marshmallow-y scent. Both my wife and mother love them. It’s like torture.

  19. Gyrofrog says:

    Where do Chick Tracts fall on this hierarchy? Under “good tidings” etc.?

    How about unattended candy (of any variety), left on a platter using the honor system?

    Toothpaste, disclosure tablets etc. handed out from the dentist’s house?

    (I’ve encountered all these)

    • petertrepan says:

      Where do Chick Tracts fall on this hierarchy? Under “good tidings” etc.?

      You beat me to it! I’d like to submit this for both the top and bottom categories simultaneously:

    • Alan Olsen says:

       Real Chick tracts or fake ones? The older classic tracts are much better than most of the modern ones. (Much more psychotic.)  Getting pro-Cthulhu or Bob tracts would have been great when I was a kid. (But then again, I collect agitprop.)

      Reminds me I need to finish the parody Chick tract that I was working on. Argues that the only way to go to Heaven is to reject ALL faiths. (God put religion there to weed out the suckers.) I call it the P.T. Barnam school of Theology.

  20. areaman70 says:

    I propose the title be changed to reflect its true nature: the HALLOWEEN candy hierarchy, not just a generic candy hierarchy.

    • Donald Petersen says:

      Hear, hear.  An important distinction, this.  If nothing else, it should disqualify the pustulent (you’re welcome) Creme Eggs from anywhere other than their proper, 7-month-old, stale 2nd Tier classification.

  21. ando bobando says:

    Only problem I see: Canadian Smarties are far superior to M&Ms and they are therefore not interchangable.

    We are giving out green goo filled “Cadbury Screme Eggs” this year (they’re fresh, I checked. Several times.) and I’m glad to see that makes us cool. I’m hoping hurricane Sandy keeps the kids inside this Wednesday and there are more leftovers for us. :P

  22. chgoliz says:

    I will never understand Cadbury love, and question the over-reliance on caramel (often of questionable quality) in the top tier.

    As far as anything-mint scoring above anything-nut (especially non-peanut), well, someone needs to answer for that in greater detail.  For shame!

  23. skeptacally says:

    I am firm in my belief that this list is discriminatory.  It is obviously aimed towards the lowest common denominator of children Trick or Treaters.  Those wee folk with more cultured palates would trend towards a much higher placement of black licorice (or at least candies with actual licorice in the ingredient list).  They would also recognize the importance of chips in the Hallowe’en haul.  The salt of these deep-fried treats both cuts through and compliments the chocolately sweetness of other products.  It can even help elevate the taste of the inferior American chocolates on this list.

    I demand equal representation for the childhood candy sophisticates!

    • welcomeabored says:

      Hear, hear!   For  REAL black licorice, and any good quality chocolate that includes the words ‘sea salt’ on the label. Better still – caramel, chocolate and sea salt – *shiver down spine*. 

      • Donald Petersen says:

        Ha!  Y’all go find your own holiday.  There’s a reason why this hierarchy rolls around this particular season every year, and it’s not because of you highfalutin’ toffs with your “acquired taste” confections formulated from desiccated larvae, rare minerals, and ironic counterintuitive post-yummy faux-delicacies like black licorice (which, I’ve said before, is an inexplicable holdover from the Great Depression when kids would squeeze a pinch of anise into a mouthful of roofing pitch and gnaw upon it on their way home from their second shift at the rendering plant, not so much for recreation but more to encourage an early demise from “Lickrish Poisonin'” and a respite from their hopeless life of grimy labor and exploitation)… it’s because of the world’s honest, God-fearing trick-or-treaters, those hearty door-to-door salestots of autumnal greed and mischief, the ones who (despite the best efforts of their chocolate-swipin’ mothers) bear upon their small but growing shoulders the weight of the candy industry entire.

        Those young Romneys who send out Standish the butler dressed as a well-heeled hobgoblin (or perhaps a Liberal Democrat if they really want to strike fear into the hearts of the neighbors) to perform their Tricks for Treats might conceivably strike the poor manservant with Father’s cane, or at least dock his pay, were he to return bearing a pillowcase of such proletarian rubbish as M&Ms, a Baby Ruth bar, or a packet of Chewy Spree.  If he knows what’s good for him, he’ll only tug the bell-pull at the service entrance of such estates whose dispensation of such exclusively highbrow offerings as Toblerones and fine Belgian and Swiss chocolate truffles can be relied upon.

        But this list isn’t for him, nor for those Romneys-in-training.  This list is for and of and by the masses, those gaping and gap-toothed maws of children around the world who, year in and year out, don a barely fire-retardant cape and a vision-impairing mask of Chinese manufacture, and brave the darkness, the open flames of clustered jacks-o-lantern, the marauding bands of candy-swiping 9th-graders, the tract-dispensers and disapproving Witnesses, the steep driveways, the embarrassing flashlight-wielding dads, and that asshole in the werewolf mask hiding under the strobe light behind the ficus on the porch of the house on the corner, the one who loves nothing better than to jump and howl so loud at the timid kindergartener in the Spongebob suit that the poor little guy drops his bag of Mallomars and Tootsie Rolls and dissolves into hitching sobs in his freshly-pissed suit.  Trick-or-treating is an annual pilgrimage, a serious undertaking, and a solemn rite carried out by those of us too young to vote, too short to reach most cookie jars, and too broke to afford buying our own luxuries without resorting to parental appeal.  And many of us just ain’t that cute.

        So fie on you “sophisticates” who think you know better what tastes good and what doesn’t!  Leave it to the “lowbrow” kids, who have no memory or nostalgia for the days of want and rationed sugar, and who don’t feel the compulsion to train their palates to keep down whatever vomitous excretion passes for sophisticated confectionery among the jaded circles of the decadent elite.  Ask any third-grader at an actual public school and they’ll tell you: Junior Mints and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups rule.  Black Licorice and Almond Roca and pretentious European chocolates with mysterious centers categorically do not.

        But yeah, chocolate with caramel and sea salt, that’s pretty darned good.  Not Halloweeny, and wasted on the kids, but quite good.

        • Mark Dow says:

          I’d guess you’re wearing a General Patton costume, but he’d be the first to ration sugar.

        • noah django says:

          my grandma–a child of the depression-era–and her friends all really DID chew warm, sun-baked paving tar as a treat.
          me:  “wtf, Mimi?”
          her:  “[shrugs/giggles] We didn’t know.”

  24. Chris S says:

    There are clearly structural problems with this research. Reviewing the underlying data, I can see references to “all kinds” of candy. This indicates that there may be preferences not explicitly stated. One of these would be the long-standing Halloween molasses kiss.

    The molasses kiss might not rank at the top of the candy hierarchy, but the complete ommission of this item raises strong doubts about the completeness of the underlying data.

    • noah django says:

       I think their word for molasses kiss is “anonymous brown globs that come in black and orange wrappers” located on the Tier So Low It Doesn’t Register On Our Equipment.

      I never knew what those things were actually called, either.  Good show, CS.

  25. xzzy says:

    I’m glad no one like tootsie rolls, because it leaves more for me.

    And smarties (the american chalk version).

  26. Peter says:

    I’m sorry, although it arguably doesn’t belong in “candy” (but then, neither does cash), the mini bags of chips were always a heavenly highlight of my haul and a hallmark of a highly happy Halloween. 

    Edit: Sorry, I couldn’t help the alliteration towards the end, once I accidentally got three in a row, I had to stuff in as many as I could…

  27. 10xor01 says:

    If you’d like to collect on your fire insurance policy, try handing out dental floss.

  28. Eark_the_Bunny says:

    A couple of things that belong at the very bottom of the list are:  whole unshelled walnuts and any loose unwrapped candy such as candy corn, etc.  

  29. Alan Olsen says:

    I buy the 30 full sized candy bar assortment at the local CostCo.  It costs me less than the equivalent “fun sized” bars and the kids are MUCH happier. 

  30. omems says:

    Where are Necco wafers? I mean, besides the 3rd circle of hell. Where on the chart? Maybe they’re lumped (piled?) in with chalk on the lower tier

    • Lexicat says:

      Interesting: how would you prioritize the multi-flavor packs versus the all-black wafer packs versus the all-choco flavor packs?

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        They come in categorical packs now? We only had multi-flavor back in 1963.

        • Donald Petersen says:

          They do.  Multi-flavor is comparable to a roll of antacids.  Chocolate ones taste more “brown” than “chocolatey” and are very slightly better than the multi-flavor.  All black is only suitable for shimming the heels of one’s Mary Janes to help treat the scoliosis.

  31. privatedick says:

    No candy apples? with or without razor blades? Seriously.

  32. beeandcat says:

    This year’s identification of the Quasi-Silurian vein has remedied the greatest flaw that plagued earlier iterations of this hierarchy. While there are still omissions (and I feel there is a strong need for a fourth tier), recognition of the mint anomaly is a very productive step forward.

  33. yoshua says:

    I’m not  a Nerds fan, but they are hugely popular in my neighborhood. The kids, maybe 10 year olds, LOVE them. WHo am I to judge?

    • Donald Petersen says:

      The kids, as you rightly imply, have the valid opinion.  I think this year’s hierarchy is a marked improvement over previous years, but there remains the distressing chococentricity problem.  And I’m a huge fan of chocolate going back four decades.  My sister was allergic to chocolate until her early thirties, poor lamb, and so every Halloween we’d dump out our pillowcases and exchange sweets.  I’d happily take all her Snickers and Milky Ways and M&Ms, and selflessly hand over my Good & Plentys (not that she’d eat those; they ended up going to my dad, who grew up in a shack with no electricity and didn’t know what good candy was) and Jolly Ranchers and Pixie Stix.  But then it would get tense.  I didn’t mind a few Tootsie Rolls, but damn, you got a lot of those in the 70s, and I didn’t really want any of hers to add to the load.  And she always got to take my Lik-m-Aid Fun Dip, which struck me as horribly unfair.  (“But Donnie, she can’t have any chocolate at all.”  Sigh.)  I also hated handing over my Nerds, though she was welcome to the Pop Rocks.

      Anyway, I came to appreciate all the non-chocolate goodies that I largely missed as a kid, thanks to my sister.  And so now I have to wonder why anyone would disparage the Nerds, Spree, Bottle Caps, Runts, Gummy Bears, and chewing gum.  I admit that my beloved Circus Peanuts are beloved only by me, and I’m okay with that.  More for me, t’hell with all y’all.  But dammit, kids love Gummy Bears and Gummy Worms (both sour and regular), Nerds are hugely popular, Bottle Caps are a delight, and gum is gum.  Even Bazooka Joe and Dubble Bubble, those cheap-ass Halloween staples, are perfectly yummy for two minutes or so.  If you happen to score an actual pack of Hubba Bubba or Bubblicious, you’re in for more mouthwatering joy than even the freshest Twix or Kit Kat could ever afford you.

      And you know it.

      • noah django says:

         dude, you know how I know you’re drunk?  the two multi-paragraph comments (in addition to the smaller ones.)  ‘S ok, though, they’re still good.

        and why is Fun Dip not on the chart, anyway?  that was *the boooomb*!  also:  chewy spree.

        • Donald Petersen says:

          Ah, but I total tees, good sir!  Sugar is my drug of choice.  I just tend to go on at excessive length, particularly at this damned hierarchy since it’s right in my wheelhouse.

          I’m loving your taste, btw.  Fun Dip and Chewy Spree are, like, Nature’s Perfect Foods.

  34. TaymonBeal says:

    Comparing American Smarties to chalk is an insult to chalk.
    (For some unfathomable reason, I’m the only person I know who hates them.)

  35. Alan Olsen says:

    I wonder how you would rank USB thumb drives.  I guess it depends on how big they are. (Or what they contain.) The Christian Linux distro I got at Defcon a few years back would rank pretty low down on the list.

  36. Paul says:

    This year’s reassessment of Goo Goo Clusters is perhaps the best improvement to the list. Excellent work.

  37. welcomeabored says:

    Reading through the comments so far, I think Petersen may be working up a No. 6 on us.  Chill out, Slim! – it’s only candy.  Yes, I love black licorice, and a little sea salt enhances the flavor of chocolate, but I could take or leave most sweets these days. 

    ‘I get no kick from champagne, mere alcohol doesn’t thrill me at all’.  But I can remember when it did, and candy too, and those memories are what we’ve offered here over the years.  If I understand the directives from Ng and Cohen in this latest version of ‘The Candy Hierarchy’, they would prefer to hear from actual Trick-or-Treaters, and/or their parents, as to which candies really delight them.  I am neither treater or a parent, but the answer was as simple then, as it is now:  any treat that is sweet/fun/long lasting.  Chocolate is more expensive, makes a mess, and the taste disappears too quickly – and where’s the fun in that?  (We used to try to make our Halloween hauls last as long as possible; that goal was more easily achieved if it was uninteresting to parents and too-old-to-Trick-or-Treat siblings.  My little brother would come in the door at the end of the evening and find three greedy chocolate munchers lying in wait.  Poor kid hardly got to sniff a Snickers until he was twelve.) 

    ‘Yet I get a kick – um you give me a boot – I get a kick out of you.’

    • Donald Petersen says:

      I’m a slave to my passions, what can I say?  As a fairly recently-minted parent with a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old, I’m looking forward to learning their preferences.  They have relatively limited experience with candy so far (relative to their rotten-toothed father when he was their age, at any rate), and I know they like chocolate and Gummis, and the 3-year-old enjoys cheap suckers, though he usually doesn’t remember to finish them and tends to stick them to his carseat upholstery for later consumption.

      But you ask “where’s the fun” in expensive, messy chocolate?  That right there betrays you as Not A Parent.  The kids care not at all about expense, ‘specially on Halloween when most of the haul is on the neighbors’ dime, and it probably won’t surprise you to know that, as far as they’re concerned, messiness and stickiness only add value to the overall experience.  The melted brown Hershey mess smeared over the cheeks is simply a short-term storage solution for future delectation.

      (EDIT: I belatedly realize that “where’s the fun” probably referred only to the shortish duration of chocolate’s flavor sensation within the mouth, as compared to jawbreakers or Jolly Ranchers or other sucking and/or chewing candies, and not to the messiness or expense of chocolate. And to that extent, you’re certainly right. That’s why we stuff so much chocolate down our gullets, to keep the flavor going in our mouths and the endorphins spinning through our brains! So I humbly apologize for implying that You Must Be Nuts for thinking kids would object to the price or messiness of chocolate. My bad for misreading! I shall pay penance by purchasing a two-dollar Toblerone, melting it in my hands, and sniffing it but not actually allowing myself to eat it. That’ll learn me.)

      I recognize that I’m a little hard on you licorice devotees, and that to you at least the stuff is not actually comparable to a toxic petroleum by-product.  And someday, when the evil mood strikes me, I’ll offer a Good and/or a Plenty (or maybe even one of those fancy European licorices they keep behind the counter at the corner druggery) to my offspring and see what their honest, unguarded opinion might be.  Maybe they’ll take after their paternal Granddad, smack their lips together like Snuffy Smith after a quaff of fresh corn squeezins, and proclaim the stuff to be the finest confection ever confected, rather than simply the trimmings from the Uniroyal tire factory that my own taste buds detect.

      If so, I promise a swift apology to you, plus a lifetime supply (that’s a 1-pound bag, right?) of Your Very Favorite Brand of Licorice, delivered to the address of your choosing.

      But if my kids make the expected retching noises, you owe me a Marathon bar.

  38. noah django says:

    re-registering my confusion at the third listing being labeled “post-tertiary.”  that list is tertiary.  “post-tertiary” indicates fourth or later.

    also, the “quasi-silurian” is listed second but means “seemingly but not actually Welsh/third in relation to the Paleozoic era of geologic time,”  which is right out.

    also, no fun allowed.

  39. Keith Moore says:

    No Andes Mints? Cretins.

  40. Adam Coe says:

    i cannot believe sll this talk of halloween candy and not a single mention of the true scourge of oct. 31…the surely devil-spawned evilness that is the “gum” known as THRILLS.

  41. Sparrow says:

    It’s only the brown Smarties that score lower than chalk, the others score just barely above, but it averages out the same.

  42. Festus says:

    This is clearly wrong. Almond Joy is top-tier. Way better than Snickers. 

  43. Festus says:

    I used to trick or treat in a small, stoned Northern California town inhabited by hippies who fled the implosion of the Haight scene after 1969.  One time I knocked on the door and a big shambling dude finally answered. He was flabbergasted by seeing a small band of pirates. Finally he figured it out after we chanted “trick or treat!” at him for a while. He got this puzzled look and asked if we wanted a beer. Two years later, in 7th grade, I would have been stoked. He tried again: “Hey little dudes, you can have a pear right off our tree. They are super good.”

    THAT is lowest tier. But excellent for life experience.

  44. theanalogdivide says:

    Any chart lacking Take 5 is incomplete and therefore irrelevant. Unless this is the author’s way of saying that Take 5 transcends all taxonomical efforts, in which I say well done. 

  45. Eileen Stone says:

    MILK DUDS!  (a favorite addiction)

  46. Bet Not says:

    … I remember when the Kit-Kat said Rowntree on it … tasted better then.

  47. Clara Sturak says:

    Pixy Stix.  Something about knowing that one or two of them would end up crushed and leaking blue or red powder all over the bottom of the pillowcase only made them more desirable to me.  Now you can’t even buy them in Halloween bags of their own! At my local market, they’re relegated to a small role in a hideous “Wonka” mix that includes the aforementioned Bottle Caps and Laffy Taffy. Urgh. (Some helpful info from Wikipedia: Pixy Stix do not contain protein or essential vitamins or minerals.)

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