Whether you love it so much that you look forward to it every fall or you simply love to hate it, you can likely agree that few sweets are as polarizing as candy corn. But whatever side of the fence you are on, you might wonder why in the world other people have such a strong opposing opinion about the sugary little kernels.
Would you believe your fondness or aversion to the autumnal sweets might be more profound than flavor or texture? At least one expert thinks you might be hard-wired to love or loathe candy corn.
Marie Wright is the chief global flavorist — one of just 300 such experts in the world — at nutrition leader Archer Daniels Midland who has developed more than 1,000 flavors for major food and beverage companies. Wright believes there’s a major reason that candy corn is so divisive.
“It’s funny really, it seems to be a very emotional candy. People have a real strong opinion. It’s almost like, if you want to start a little bit of a heated discussion, you can ask somebody about candy corn,” Wright told Today. “It seems to evoke a very strong response.”
The nostalgia of the confection might draw pro-corn people.
“The area of the brain where we process smell (which has a major impact on how we process taste)… is in the same part of the brain where we store memories and evoke emotion,” Wright explained to Today. “In that primitive part of the brain, often there is a strong connection between an event, especially when it’s food, especially childhood.”
But the overwhelming vanilla-marshmallow sweetness combined with the unique, waxy texture of the kernels can be too off-putting for some.
“From a sensory perspective, the hatred of candy corn can be explained because, unlike many candies, its flavor profile doesn’t incorporate contrast,” Paul Adams, a senior editor at Cook’s Illustrated Magazine, told USA Today. “It’s just intensely sweet-tasting, which can produce palate fatigue, like eating spoonfuls of honey or sugar.”
Candy corn was invented in the 1880s by George Renninger at Wunderlee Candy Company, and the Goelitz Candy Company (now Jelly Belly Candy Company) started producing it around the turn of the 20th century. According to the National Confectioners Association, candy corn is the third-favorite Halloween candy of Americans. Only chocolate and gummy candies are more popular with trick-or-treaters and their parents.
Are you a candy corn enthusiast, or do you believe the best place for it is in the trash?