Candy: Nostalgic & New

Remember the days of chewing on that delicious caramel Sugar Daddy? You swore that the candy stuck in your teeth was never coming out. How could we forget those lovable M&Ms commercials? What about stuffing a pound of Big League Chew into our mouths, pretending to be that famous big league ball player? The candy business as we know it today is a billion-dollar industry (with The Hershey Company alone accounting for $5 billion in revenue). Even over the past few decades of Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, and the Thigh Master, we all sneak in a treat sooner or later.

Andrew Reitman, general manager of Nassau Candy, and I recently discussed the topic of candy. I am personally do not have a huge “sweet tooth.” However, I have always been fascinated with the history of candy and candy companies. People like Milton Hershey amassed an entire empire from a cocoa bean. It amazes me how simple the ingredient profiles are for some of our most common candies. To some people, candy is like a mile marker in their lives. Do you ever hear a song from the past and get taken back to a certain point in your life? For some, the red jellybean may bring back memories of that first Valentine’s Day kiss. For others, we might think of those chewy candies in the glass bowl at grandma and grandpa’s house. Whatever wheels are going in your mind right now, you begin to understand my point.

In looking at some of the nostalgic candies, we see a few things. First, there were candies made years ago that just went away. For example, do you remember Astro Pops, Marathon Bars, or Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy? Second, there are candies that have been brought back with the recent push for nostalgic candy. How about B B Bats, Sky Bars, and Fizzies Drink Tablets (a popular drink from the 50s and 60s, similar to Alka-Seltzer but with flavor)? Finally, some candy from the past is just timeless. Candies such as Candy Buttons, Candy Cigarettes, Dots, and Doscher’s French Taffy have never gone away. While they may have evolved over the years, there was never a time in the past when you could not go to the corner store to pick these up.

Candy has evolved. Now more than ever, it is made and marketed to a whole new generation. The new candies are meant to be colorful, weird, cool, and even gross. Andrew carries a candy called Nose Hose. It is a plastic nose where you unscrew the nostrils to watch a green candy ooze out. The goal of this candy is to emulate a runny nose. Another favorite of mine is the newer version of the old Fun Dip. The newer version is a plastic toilet bowl filled with grape sugar. The dipping stick is meant to emulate a plunger. To use simply get the stick wet with your mouth and plunge in the bowl to your heart’s content. Enjoy by sucking off all of the grape sugar from the dipping stick.

Whether you enjoy the nostalgic candy of yesteryear or marvel in the latest sugar creations, candy will always be part of Americana. Candy is a way of connecting with the kid inside us. It is something that will be around for years to come.

Nassau Candy sells candy to candy shops, grocery stores, cruise ships, hotels, restaurants, and country clubs. Our hotel works with Nassau on our room amenities, banquet breaks, and retail sales. Andrew has a good pulse on consumer demand. He shared some points with me about where the candy business is today:

  • Today’s consumers are more focused on single-source chocolates.

  • Candy is trendy like everything else (i.e., sour candy was the “in” thing for a while).
  • Today’s consumers love interactive candy (candy that lights up or makes noises).
  • Licensed candy dominates the market (i.e., Nassau’s biggest seller is Hanna Montana Bubble Blast).
  • Wrigley is still the major player in the gum market with a 65% share of the business.

If you have any questions about this article or about other candy information, Andrew can be reached at (561) 863-8279. Nassau Candy is full line candy distributor with two locations. Andrew is based out of Riviera Beach, Florida, where they service the southeastern United States and the Caribbean. Their Hicksville, New York, office services the northeastern United States. Randy Goldbaum is VP of sales for this office and can be reached at (516) 433-7100. If you are looking for some ideas, Andrew is a wealth of knowledge and ideas. Until next time…


  1. We just ran a “Candy Shop” break package for our corporate event complete with the big glass jars and some great retro candy. It’s amazing how the 30 and 40 somethings stampeded their way to the WAY Non-PC candy cigarettes and bubble gum cigars not to mention the Mike and Ike’s, Jelly Belly’s, and Razzles.

    Good article and it made me remember even more of the good old days. I think I’ll go and crack a licorice whip at my Exec Sous Chef

  2. Great article. I don’t think I have seen candy cigarettes in 20 years!

    I spend a lot of time analyzing popular hotel retail trends. Our company specializes in supplying hotel pantries and helping hospitality professionals successfully manage profitable retail operations. We track a lot of data on the top selling items to provide our clients with researched QA standards and par lists.

    No matter how many interesting alternatives we offer in our chocolate and candy categories, the old standby’s are right at the top every month when it comes to what the guests grab from the lobby market for a snack.

    Even with all that is out there: retro candy, health food bars, organic bars, energy bars, specialty candies, high end goodies and snacks , and all the other trendy alternatives, when it comes to a sweet snack, people still want their traditional chocolate bars.

    Based on our sales from supplying about 1,800 hotel properties in the past 2 years, the top candy products continuously appear in this order of popularity.

    1. Snickers
    2. M&M’s Plain
    3. Reese’s Peanut Butter Bars
    4. Kit Kat Bars
    5. Twix

    And make them all King-Sized at that!

    Of course, I have to admit that, while I too will run to check out the candy cigarettes and reminisce for a moment, when I am ready for a snack, I still want a King Sized Snickers Bar — and a diet Coke! How ridiculous a combination is that???

    Janine Roberts
    Director of Marketing