The Candy Hierarchy

LATEST: The Candy Hierarchy has been updated for 2012.


With Halloween approaching, I thought it would be amusing to write a bit about candy, or more specifically, a system that aims to rank it. In this case, the rubric would be according to "emotional zeal" or something more jargony sounding like "joy induction." Anyway, this hierarchy is the work of a friend and colleague, Ben Cohen. Ben is an environmental historian over at the University of Virginia, but in a previous life, he and I use to write on a blog together. This partnership happened because of our backgrounds publishing science humour (see Ben's clip list here), so in some respects, this "Candy Hierarchy" is just another creative juncture.

However, since I'm loving how you can get immediate feedback from the Boing Boing community, I'm also thinking that we could use this opportunity to throw a little kickass "peer review" into the ranking. Kickass because: (1) I know some people are going to be deeply offended by the rankings; (2) the rankings were last updated in 2008, and are therefore long overdue for some revision; and (3) well, isn't peer review just kickass anyway? Oh yeah – the graphic is new (just made it today): hopefully if you play in the comments, some of us can use it one day as a slide for an interesting discussion on the scientific method – yes?

Anyway, read on…


The research team is seeking further "peer review" as we prepare to submit grant proposals to the NIH, NSF, CDC, FDA, and MTV. The recession clearly put a dent in hierarchy-producing momentum (see previous versions 2006 | 2007 | 2008), this being another indication of the relationship between scientific productivity and economic pressures, as well as the relationship between eating large volumes of candy and participants "getting all bloated and lethargic."

We place a high value on the peer review process, as past attempts had produced noteworthy relevations, including establishment of reference samples, hereafter termed index candies, as well as the discovery of the importance of caramel in defining the upper tiers.

In particular, we hope that some of the new potential advances in the hierarchy will be due to evaluating context setting. For example, rarely in practice do eaters eat just one piece of candy. Evidence indicates that, in general, eaters throw multiple pieces of Halloween candy down their gullets. (When so much is being eaten, research shows the Pelican-gullet-eating-fish imagery is apt.) It thus matters which are eaten earlier and which later. Some tests, for example, indicate that "you can only consume so many premier grade chocolate based candies before you need the zip or zing of a Spree or a Smarty to 'cleanse the pallet'." We also realize that results are predominantly based on North American palates, but hope that the forthcoming discussion will begin to shed light on global preferences.

Enough preamble, then. To wit, the Candy Hierarchy (circa 2008):

(caramel, chewy, oh my classy)
Caramellos — Milky Way — Snickers — Rolos2 — Twix

(not surprisingly, exclusively chocolate-based)
Hershey's Kissables — Peanut M&M's — Regular M&Ms — Junior Mints — Reese's Peanut Butter Cups — Three Musketeers — regular old Hershey Bars — Reggie Jackson Bar

(also exclusively chocolate, after fending off a few intruders)
Kit-Kat — Nestle Crunch — Mounds — Tootsie Rolls — Whoppers3 — Dark Chocolate Hershey Bars — Fair Trade Chocolate — Butterfinger — Pay Day — Baby Ruth

(the chewy range or, in some circles, the Upper Chewy or Upper Devonian)
Milk Duds — Benzedrine — Jolly Ranchers (if a good flavor) — 100 Grand Bar
Almond Joy — Candy Corn?4 — Starburst

(the Lower Chewy and Gummy-Based, also the Middle Crunchy Tart Layer)
Dots — Lollipops — Nerds — Runts — Trail Mix —Swedish Fish — Mary Janes — Gummy Bears straight up — White Bread — Licorice — Anything from Brach's5 — Hard Candy — Spree — Bubble Gum — Including the Chiclets (but not the erasers) — Black Jacks — LemonHeads — LaffyTaffy — Good N' Plenty — Jolly Ranchers (if a bad flavor)6 — Bottle Caps — Smarties — "those odd marshmallow circus peanut things" — gum from baseball cards

Tier so low it does not register on our equipment7
Healthy Fruit — Pencils — Lapel Pins — Extra Strength Tylenol — "anonymous brown globs that come in black and orange wrappers" — Now'n'Laters — Hugs (actual physical hugs) — Whole Wheat anything

– – –

1. Note that may candies still await placement: York Peppermint Patties, Luna Bars, Reese's Pieces, residue from old paint cans, and Skittles, among others.

2. These may be rolled to a friend.

3. Whoppers blow.

4. Still no unanimous decision on the placement of Candy Corn, which as of 2006 remained unclassified, but as of 2007 had been tentatively placed in the Upper Chewy/Upper Devonian. 2008: no sighting.

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

6. Remains an outlier, since it is in no way "chewy." Further studies have not resolved this inconsistency.

7. 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. Goo Goo clusters, too. You're making a social statement–"I hate you and everything you represent"–when you give these out.