As I sipped my coffee this morning, taking in the “fire and fury" headline from the Chicago Tribune, I happened to notice a teaser headline in the Food & Dining section of the paper. “This is how much candy you can get for $5.”
OK, you got me. Of course, you know I was hooked. Actually, anything confectionery catches my eye. But this was so captivating on a variety of levels. And this delightful piece by reporter Erin Ben-Moche got full-page treatment, with photos and descriptions of how much one could buy at local Chicago retail candy stores for a crisp Abe Lincoln.
The basis of the story stemmed from Ben-Moche overhearing a father tell his kids that they could roam wild at Dylan’s Candy Bar store, but with only $5 in their pocket. Seems like a modern-day sequel to Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, doesn’t it? Or was this just a clever scheme to teach math?
Perhaps the $5 would have bought you a shopping bag worth of candy when I was a youngster (circa early 1960s), but not so much today, my friend. Moreover, keep in mind that you are buying candy at retail shops, and not mass merchandisers, club stores or factory stores.
So Ben-Moche visited six retail shops: Kilwin’s; Dylan’s Candy Bar; Amy’s Candy Bar; Candyality; Margie’s Candies and Dulcelandia. Candy Industry has written about several of these. They range from established confectionery retail chains, such as Dylan’s Candy Bar and Kilwin’s, to entrepreneurial success stories such as Candyality and Amy’s Candy Bar. Then there‘s the historic icon such as Margie’s Candies or the ethnic wonderland like Dulcelandia.
As Ben-Moche discovered, each retail outlet has its strengths. If you’re opting for quality, Kilwin's, Dylan’s Candy Bar and Amy’s Bar would be your best bets. Candyality goes both ways, bounty as well as premium. Margie’s Candies and Dulcelandia satisfied the bargain hunter in all of us, with plenty of choices in the penny candy range [Penny candy as in inexpensive candies, not as in actually costing a penny].
And that led me to think how much consumers would be willing to spend on candy. As a youngster, I collected empty pop bottles to bring them to the local mom-and-pop candy store. I definitely could purchase a small bag’s worth of candy for six bottles, redeemable at two cents per bottle.
The idea was to collect enough bottles so you could purchase the three-for-15 cents comic book special (they had their covers ripped off and packed in a see-through plastic bag) and then still have some change for the sweet treats.
But back to the original question, what would I spend $5 on in candy? Well, I definitely would opt for quality over quantity, most likely leaning toward dark chocolate with some kind of inclusion. I have a feeling there’s a group of foodie-wannbes in my demographic that also lean that way.
Others, I know for a fact, will go nostalgic and purchase candies from their childhood, be they Atomic FireBalls, Mary Janes, Almond Joys, Nibs, Dum-Dums, Baby Ruths, the list goes on.
And others would simply opt for something organic and potentially better-for-you.
The point is that the confectionery industry gives consumers so many choices. And that’s something more large-scales retailers should be paying more attention to. That’s the way to make those Lincolns grow at the cash register.
Finally, I wanted to end on a nostalgic note since we’ve mentioned penny candy. Here’s a short clip from the Food Timeline website under the penny candy heading. It’s just another reminder of why you’re all in the business:
“While candies were sold for pennies in the 19th century, the term "penny candy," according to the Oxford English Dictionary, first appears in print in the New York Times, April 2, 1893 (p. 12): "The personal peace of mind and the contentment of my small fry which I have purchased with the outlay of a single cent are little short of colossal. I had to draw the line at the penny candy of the good-natured German woman who presides over the treasures of the establishment and insist upon the children buying their occasional goodies at the drug store."