Reuters blogger Jessica Wohl reported a few months ago on a Brand Keys survey whose results tell us, among other things, that men eat a good deal more chocolate when times get tough. A cursory survey of the average man’s expanding waistline could have told us as much!

At any rate, the survey of 750 American men aged 25 to 65 reports that the urge to munch on some chocolatey comfort is very common in just about every demographic therein. The most popular items are, naturally, candy bars, with the top 10 occupied exclusively by the Big Three (Mars, Hershey and Nestle). Snickers reigns supreme, with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Kit Kats nipping at its chewy heels.

Now, the survey was concerned with gauging men’s chocolate-eating habits and how they compare with past surveys. The survey did not take into account how many men were eating more chips, say, or fast food. Shameless cocoa cravings were exclusive. On the whole, I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to assume empty calorie consumption is on the rise overall. Research scientists say that there’s no longterm benefit to gorging on candies and other snacks, but everyone knows we can’t resist a little ill-advised splurge when things get rough.

The report claims that there are no physiological payoffs to eating an increased amount of chocolate, though there are possible short-term boosts in pleasure centers in the brain. My theory: Men reach for treats that have been with them all their lives, from carefree childhood to today. Just like favorite songs and old friends, chocolate and other candies provide a tangible link to simpler, less stressful times.

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George Costanza Candy ID Quiz

September 26, 2008

Mental_floss, the preeminent purveyors of trivia/crack, have posted the George Costanza Candy Identification Quiz on their site.

For shame. I admit with a heavy heart that I switched the Milky Way and 3 Musketeers bars. I forgot that 3 Musketeers are larger; they don’t have caramel and accommodate more fluffy, delicious nougat.

Martian Science

September 26, 2008

Scientists from Mars, Inc.’s research arm Mars Botanicals say that cocoa flavanols can be used to develop medical treatments to improve blood flow and other blood vessel functions. Read here.

This is great news. Almost as great as when they announced coffee was actually very good for–well, I don’t know. I didn’t need to hear anything after that. The best part, though? The general manager of Mars Botanicals is Mary Wagner, creator of Taco Bell’s Chalupa. That’s science gold you can take to the bank!

First Wax, Now Vegetable Oil

September 26, 2008

ABC News reports Chocolate Lovers Pained By Candy Changes

Citing rocketing price costs and insinuating that “lesser” candy bars deserve lesser ingredients, Hershey has been replacing traditional cocoa butter with less expensive vegetable oil in many of its products.

Photo courtesy ABC News

Photo courtesy ABC News

In other cringe-worthy news, The Consumerist noted that Hershey’s Kissables can no longer be considered milk chocolate by FDA standards. They’re just kinda chocolate-like candy now, a careful rephrasing that means a lot. Check it out.

Researchers with the National Association of College Stores have released the results of a study analyzing the snacking preferences of American college students.

15% of survey participants named Snickers as their favorite candy bar, with Reese’s Cups taking 14%. (What–no love for Bit O’ Honey?!) Roughly half said chips, crackers and popcorn was their favorite type of snack, while only 10% preferred cookies and cake. 9% of college students surveyed had a vague recollection of fruit. 623 participated in the survey; their distribution and breakdown by geography, economic status and other determinants is uncertain.

Read the NACS’s press release.

As promised, the remainder of Ray Broekel’s 1986 American Heritage article. Read the rest of this entry »

Below is an article the late candy historian Ray Broekel wrote for American Heritage waaaaay back in 1986. Its amusing sidebar, “Ten Immortals”, will appear in a subsequent post. Read the rest of this entry »

Sweet Greetings!

September 4, 2008

Just a quick post to say hello and let any potential readers know what I’m up to here.

Candies, confections, treats… Novelties and sweets, chips, snacks and munchies… In our modern age of mass consumption and sensory gratification, it’s easy to decry our base impulses, particularly when the majority of them drive us to gobble up a boggling variety of nutritionally vacant, ultra-processed foodstuffs. In lieu of vigorous exercise or inner reflection, we too commonly seek comfort in the multi-hued gluttony of candy temptresses. It figures largely, no doubt, in our booming rates of obesity and other determinants of poor health. Sugary and salty snacks, much like television, temporarily distract us from the larger scope of the world around us, but ultimately we come crashing back down and feel we have no option but to seek that cheap euphoria again.

But…! But…they’re so gooooooood! A little flirtation with caramel or bright orange cheese now and then adds a cheery escapist fling to hum-drum days and late-night insomnia. The tastes and textures toy with our tummies so terrifically! Like surrendering to the strains of a touching melody or giggling at an improbably tiny toy dog, treats lift our spirits and add dimension to the human experience. When engaged with conscious effort free of distraction, all five senses come to life and the mind does little backflips of glee. A candy bar can be as stimulating to the primary hunger impulse as pot roast or fresh-baked bread.

Junk food: Stuff we shovel hand over fist which has practically no nutritive value whatsoever. I use the term with affection but wariness. I don’t intend to promote excessive consumption of junk over much more responsible choices like fruit and veggies. What I’m promoting is responsible consumption (i.e., in small doses and not as a replacement for a wholesome meal) of foods engineering to entertain and add a bit of levity to daily life.

And so I’ve started this blog to indulge my curiosity of and appreciation for the foods that delight and amuse. It’s all on the table, and I can scarcely pick a direction before wanting to dart off in another. I’m no junk food junkie, but I’m easily overwhelmed by the staggering volume of products we Americans have developed to satiate our hunger and desire for expression. So many niches are packed chock-a-block with countless opportunities to becalm every taste bud several times over. At a determined pace, I hope to explore this bright, shiny world. From the ubiquitous candy bars and chips, to regional specialties, to even alcoholic beverages and other tasty things mom would frown on, I’m casting my eyes all about for fun, fantastic food fodder. I’ll try tossing in a good measure of confectionary history, news, trivia and nostalgia, too.

I hope you’ll pick up on the Confectionarium and join me in my search for the absurd, the sublime and the timeless treats that ravage diets with utter abandon.