Salty about sweets: These are the most overrated candies

Graphic: Natalie Peeples
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Deploying the term “overrated” on the internet is your express ticket down into the snake pit. Matters of personal taste rarely fit so neatly into a discussion of the empirical quality versus the public perception of a thing. And when we’re talking about literal taste—the kind you do with your mouth—things can get even more nebulous, so strongly are our taste buds tied to forces like memory, nostalgia, and how fresh our breath currently is. (Yes, this absolutely influences the flavor of what you’re eating.)

So when Twitter decided to take on the most overrated candies, things devolved quickly. “Jelly beans,” one user responds. “No, I love jelly beans,” another user replies. “Enjoying jelly beans is incorrect,” a third chimes in. On and on. With candy, I believe we must approach the concept of “overrated” in a holistic manner. Many respondents decried the popularity of Peeps, for example, and while I indeed loathe Peeps with the best of them, I don’t believe they meet the criteria for “overrated candy” because 1) They barely qualify as “candy” in my personal definition, falling more into the “treat” category, and 2) Seasonal products are always going to stir outsize excitement due to their limited availability. (Consider the McRib—do you think it would elicit such pandemonium if McDonald’s served it year-round?)

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To be clear, overrated does not equate to bad. A measurement of overratedness considers societal expectations relative to objective performance. Only candies beloved by the masses, ones with good-or-better reputations, could be assessed here (likewise, underratedness mostly applies to candies of net-negative repute). From there, I would synthesize the following to determine what is overrated:

  • Unappealing mouthfeel/texture
  • Lack of complexity/sugary flatness of flavor
  • Unforgiving aftertaste
  • Failure to fulfill any evident need in the candy marketplace

So without further ado, the five most overrated candies:


Hershey’s Kisses

Photo: Stephen Osman/Los Angeles Times (Getty Images)

A lot of Twitterlings—including the original poster—point to M&Ms as an overrated offender. But an investigation of Hershey’s Kisses actually proves the utility of M&Ms: the decorative dish factor. M&Ms can provide a pop of color to any room or event, a tiny and easily consumed bit of sugar for guests, able to sit out for days at a time protected in their candy shells. Kisses attempt to be all of these things, and miss the mark: They are just a little too big to eat discreetly. They can get melty. They leave you with not one but two different pieces of garbage that you’re forced to roll into the most unattractive little foil ball, with nowhere to leave it. And while the chocolate can be smooth and pleasant in the moment (I recommend sucking on it!), the aftertaste is abysmal, a bittersweet tang that doesn’t whet your appetite for anything more. Do I dislike this candy? By no means. Is its ubiquity a bit confusing to me? Entirely.


Butterfinger

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It pains me to add this to the list, because Butterfinger was my original love, the first candy bar packaging I struggled to open with stubby fingers in my all-consuming excitement. But that’s just it: We’re all chasing a Butterfinger high that is so rarely achieved. A fresh Butterfinger is a crispy, airy, heavenly experience. Highly susceptible to changing temperatures or humidity, however, a stale or otherwise warped Butterfinger is an impenetrable mess of hardened corn syrupy shards that can rip out a filling and grind into your carpet in one fell swoop. No gas station in America has fresh Butterfingers; I’ve been burned enough times to know. The tyranny of stale Butterfingers—and the obvious superiority of the long discontinued Butterfinger BB’s—is a matter largely untouched by society, but by bringing it into the light, I hope to effect change.


Twizzlers

Photo: The Washington Post (via Getty Images)
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Why are Twizzlers on this list? Because they make me feel like I’ve gone fucking insane. If they were just a flavorless plasticine nightmare that sat on shelves to placate the nonagenarian market, I wouldn’t broach the issue. But the vast majority of folks seem to actively enjoy Twizzlers, and even prefer them to the obviously superior Red Vines, whose flavor and texture approximate something remotely edible. And Red Vines are often cheaper! Have you all been invaded by body-snatchers? Why is everyone settling for the bright-red cud of the candy world? I’m going to continue yelling about this for a while, so feel free to move on to the next item in the list. (Also, Red Vines turn delightfully into a straw! Twizzlers are too crimped to do this! Jesus!)


Haribo Goldbears

Photo: Rolf Vennenbernd/AFP (Getty Images)
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This is intended to be a roast of Haribo’s original gummi bear product only. There are plenty of Haribo legends for which I stand, chief among them the peaches and the berries, both of which crucially have additional coatings layered atop the gummi (sour powder and nonpareils, respectively). Because, let’s just get this out in the open: The bare gummi is a little like human flesh, is it not? It’s got the density, elasticity, and surface texture of skin—and, much like if you bit into skin with your molars, it springs right back, unassailed. The flavors are indistinguishable from one another and the aftertaste is like an alarm bell, reminding you that whatever you last ate was not, in any strict sense, food. They sit like a stone, expanding after you swallow. Are they even worth chewing? Or do you down them like so many multicolored horse pills? That little golden baggie might get everyone else excited, but the only thing I really appreciate about them is how quiet they are in a movie theater.

And finally…


Jolly Ranchers

Photo: Phil Faraone/MTV1415 (Getty Images)
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You know why lollipops include a stick? Because it’s a product that understands your mouth will occasionally tire of accommodating the large mass of sugar, corn syrup, and citric acid rolling around inside it. The body needs periodic breaks from a lollipop for a few reasons: to prevent excess saliva buildup, to rest its weary jaw, and to hit pause on what can be an intense and overwhelming concentration of flavor. The Jolly Rancher offers no such respite, and its size has always felt knowingly too large; if you don’t channel all your focus into sucking on it, you’ll either choke or start drooling into your lap. This candy has its diehards, all of whom have firm opinions about the best flavors, but to me, every variety has too much flavor from which you cannot escape. It’s also happened a dozen or so times that I’ve inhaled a half-dissolved Jolly Rancher deep into my trachea while laughing. (Drinking hot water shrinks and dislodges the mass.) Who needs a candy that is so determined to suffocate them?


A list of overrateds will never be absolute; people like what they like, as it should be. But consider this a chance to try the analogues of candies that get all the hype and none of the scrutiny. Try, for instance, a Hershey’s Nugget instead of a Kiss, or some Aussie-style red licorice instead of a Twizzler. Alternatively, you could consider this a chance to ratio me on Twitter. To each their own!

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