Candy. Nature’s Gift for Good Times and Bad

People think about eating candy two times a year—Halloween and every day that isn’t Halloween.

Candy has been popular since it was first prepared in India over 2,500 years ago. There are now hundreds if not thousands of major commercial and specialty brands in the U.S. and overseas.

The word candy is used in phrases to refer to pleasurable albeit nonessential things, like brain candy, eye candy, ear candy, arm candy, thumb candy, and of course, nose candy. Candy is often used in movie titles with adult themes (links to which are all blocked by my malware program). Ronald Reagan kept a jar of jelly beans on his desk when he was President. G.I.s used chocolate bars in WWII to ingratiate themselves with local children.

Fourteen out of any ten individuals likes chocolate.Sandra Boynton

Candy comes in the forms of bars, bite-sized pieces, sticks & straws, lollipops & suckers, sprinkles & toppings, liquids & sprays, and powders & particles. Hard candy can be pieces, canes, sticks, buttons, and ribbons. Soft candy can be chocolates, bon bons, melts, malt balls, and mints. There are candy-coated nuts, fruits, beans, crackers, and popcorn. There are layered candys called brittles, barks, and Rice Crispy treats. There are chewy fruit drops, gumdrops, gummies, jelly beans, licorice, taffy, marshmallows, and gums. And there are some unique types of candies, like cotton candy, Fizzies, rock candy, candy corn, and wax candy. Everyone has their own favorite.

All the candy corn that was ever made was made in 1911.Lewis Black

Six of the most common components of candy are chocolate, caramel, nougat, fruit, wafer, and nuts. The Venn diagram above shows over 80 candy brands in 22 combinations of the six components. (There are 63 possible combinations so not every combination is shown.)

FiveThirtyEight conducted a study to identify the most popular Halloween candy. They created “a website where participants were shown presenting two fun-sized candies and asked to click on the one they would prefer to receive. In total, more than 269 thousand votes were collected from 8,371 different IP addresses.” Their results are provided here. They found that Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups were the most popular and Good & Plenty were the least popular. Their data are available here. The Venn diagram and the following analyses are based on that data.

You might wonder if the popularity of different brands of candy is related to their sugar content. I did, so I created a bubble chart for the 16 of the component combinations shown in the Venn diagram. In the chart, the average “win” percentage is represented on the vertical axis, the average relative sugar content is represented on the horizontal axis, and the average relative price is represented by the area of the bubbles. The sugar content and price metrics are relative because they are indexed to the 85 candy brands included in the study.

The bubble chart suggests that for the averages of the component combinations, there appears to be a weak correlation between sugar content and popularity. Combinations containing chocolate and caramel have the highest sugar content and are the most popular. They’re also a bit more expensive. But that’s a misleading oversimplification.

The following graphic is a scatterplot of the 85 individual brands of candy (as opposed to the averages of the 16 component combinations shown in the bubble chart). In the scatterplot, the win percentage is represented on the vertical axis and sugar content is represented on the horizontal axis.

This scatterplot is a truer representation of the relationship between sugar content and popularity. The trend is still apparent but is not as clear-cut as the depiction using the averages. It doesn’t matter if the candy is hard candy, a bar, pieces, or some specialty form. This suggests that sugar content is important but other ingredients also play a role in popularity. No surprise there, otherwise we would just be eating bowls of sugar after dinner.

It’s not that chocolates are a substitute for love. Love is a substitute for chocolate. Chocolate is, let’s face it, far more reliable than a man.Miranda Ingram

Now ask yourself this question. Your child has just returned from trick-or-treating and is now asleep in bed. As you put your hand quietly into the goodies bag, you wonder what’s the probability that you’ll pull a Snickers out of the bag? The answer is here.

So next time you go shopping for candy to give out for Halloween, be sure to get the kinds that you like most, You never know when there might be leftovers.

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