Given that I aim to eat seasonally, it is my pleasure to welcome you to candy corn season. This year, along with the usual kernels and pumpkins, Brach’s has diversified its portfolio with a new bag of Fall Festival candy corn. Flavors in this new lineup include kettle corn, caramel apple, cotton candy, lemonade shake-up, strawberry funnel cake, and lemon-lime snow cone. Thus, I bring you a ranking of these new flavors and an appraisal of how they stack up against the classics.
If you love candy corn, Brach’s has filled an obvious hole in the zeitgeist and created “the first ever candy corn club.” You can enter for a chance to be one of the club’s inaugural members now through September 30, but all candy corn aficionados are welcome to join at any time. Members will have access to the seasonal treat year-round via subscription boxes that will also feature other seasonal Brach’s products. The club also comes with swag.
What is a “fall flavor”? There are many fall flavors associated with both Halloween and Thanksgiving, though notably, Brach’s chose not to include a pumpkin spice latte candy corn flavor—perhaps the brand is saving that one for next year. In fact, many of the six new flavors correspond to foods one would find at a summer county fair, not necessarily a fall harvest festival. Nevertheless, here’s the ranking, using my patented research method of making all my neighbors taste them and record their thoughts.
To keep everyone’s palates focused, I had tasters guess the flavors as they went, to varying degrees of accuracy. Since candy corn is so polarizing, I included equal populations of adults and children in this tasting, and also provided both regular candy corn and mellowcreme pumpkins so as to allow my panel of judges to conduct a side-by-side comparison.
One important note: Since people either love classic candy corn or can’t stand it, the haters tended to be more complimentary of the Fall Festival flavors, while defenders of the original took a more ambivalent view of the newcomers. (We have another “black licorice jelly bean” situation on our hands.)
Here’s how the rankings shook out.
My elder child was excited to try this one because it matched her outfit, but upon tasting the cotton candy flavor, both my kids spat it out. “Tastes like Play-Doh,” one of my neighbors said. All of us ranked this one lowest or second lowest, except one of the child testers, who ranked it as his second favorite.
The main critique of this candy corn is that it doesn’t taste enough like strawberry. Whereas the strawberry Brach’s jelly bean held a nostalgic, sweetly subtle strawberry cream flavor, this one for sure did not taste like cake and didn’t particularly taste like strawberry. It offered hints of strawberry chapstick, which is not a damnable offense at all, but it failed to bring us joy. My kids ranked this one highly, but then again, my elder kid thought it was peach flavored.
One neighbor ranked caramel apple as his number one, saying, “It tastes most like a candle, so it’s the best one.” He also mentioned that caramel is “hard to mess up,” which means he’s never tried to make it on the stove, but I digress. Most of us ranked this candy corn flavor right in the middle, and for what it’s worth, it tastes almost exactly like the caramel apple lollipops of my childhood. My younger kid would only eat the red part, and the older one disliked it because it “tastes too much like an apple.” (How dare Brach’s insinuate fruit in my child’s dessert?) Note that there is already a Caramel Apple Mellowcreme product if you know this is the only Brach’s fall food you want.
This flavor was my favorite, but I’m the only one. My elder kid ranked it last and spit it out. Everyone else ranked it somewhere else in the middle four spots, so here it is, in the middle. It tastes exactly like Jelly Belly Buttered Popcorn, America’s favorite jelly bean flavor. In fact, the resemblance is so strong that one neighbor said this candy corn “should have been a jelly bean.” Two neighbors missed the flavor altogether, guessing instead that it was pina colada.
No one hated this one, and the children ranked it as their number one. My elder kid snuck into the container later and ate the remaining kernels. My younger kid gave it a silent thumbs up and then wandered off before giving me his official rankings. It tastes like lime childhood. I don’t know what distinguishes it as “snow cone” versus just lemon-lime—perhaps nothing at all—but we were pleasantly surprised by the green candy corn in this Brach’s bag.
This flavor did, as the name implies, cause a shake up. Both of my kids were convinced these were orange flavored, but the rest of us were impressed with the accuracy of the lemonade, not lemon, flavor. Interestingly, I went through two bags of Brach’s Fall Festival candy corn in the course of this taste test, and in both bags, there were fewer lemonade kernels than any other flavor. Maybe this is because the citrus flavor might overwhelm the others in the bag? Whatever the case, scarcity mindset worked in our favor—everyone liked this one except one child, the one who liked candy corn, who stuck it in the middle of his rankings. One neighbor, despite enjoying the flavor, joked sarcastically, “That’s what I think of when I think of fall…”
Brach’s fall theming seems flimsy, but it’s nice to see the brand expand into assertive citrus flavors with its candy corn. Since the best flavors will never quite feel autumnal, maybe Brach’s could sell a summer citrus bag on its own, add the caramel apple and kettle corn flavors to its existing Autumn Mix, and drop strawberry and cotton candy altogether.