Re-defining the Candy Hierarchy (Halloween Experiment Debriefing #3)

The data presented below were first published after Halloween in 2006, here at The World's Fair. We were fortunate after that publication to receive further (non-anonymous) peer review and thus we re-present below the hierarchy with amendments and adjustments, but no retractions, this time just ahead of Halloween and Ghost season.

For example, one reviewer, Prof. Turcano, rightly observed that Smarties "are clearly an index candy for the Middle Crunchy Tart Layer," and that addition was made. Another reviewer, Dr. Maywa, noted that "anonymous brown globs that come in black and orange wrappers" were most definitely indicative of the "how dare they call this a candy" layer. I think some of Charles Lyell's earlier work indicated much the same, but then the Royal Society got all up in the mix and it fell out again. (There's a uniformitarian for you, right?)

To repeat our earlier claims to the report: Although there were some intra-family disputes about what belongs where, we did derive a basic candy hierarchy, and I do think it is more or less sound. This taxonomy is based on years of research and debate, on thorough testing and re-testing, on statistical comparison and quality measurement, on focus group testing, and on a series of FTIR scans that reveal various hydrocarbon peaks and whatnot.

It's sound science.

And so to you the 2007 Candy Hierarchy, with uncertainties acknowledged:


(not surprisingly, exclusively chocolate-based)

Milky Way --- Snickers --- Hershey's Kissables --- Peanut M&M's ---
Regular M&Ms --- Junior Mints --- Reese's Peanut Butter Cups ---
Three Musketeers --- regular old Hershey Bars* --- Twix


(also exclusively chocolate, after fending off a few intruders)

Kit-Kat* --- Nestle Crunch --- Mounds --- Tootsie Rolls* --- Whoppers**** --- Dark Chocolate Hershey Bars --- Fair Trade Chocolate --- Butterfinger --- Pay Day


(also referred to as the chewy range or, in some circles, the Upper Chewy or Upper Devonian)

Milk Duds --- Benzedrine -- Jolly Ranchers (if a good flavor)** --- 100 Grand Bar --- Almond Joy --- Candy Corn --- Starburst


(the Lower Chewy and Gummy-Based, also the Middle Crunchy Tart Layer)

Dots --- Lollipops --- Nerds --- Runts --- Trail Mix ---Swedish Fish --- Mary Janes ---
Gummy Bears straight up --- White Bread --- Licorice -- Anything from Brach's --- Hard Candy --- Bubble Gum --- Including the Chiclets (but not the erasers) --- Black Jacks --- LemonHeads --- LaffyTaffy --- Good N' Plenty --- Jolly Ranchers (if a bad flavor) --- Bottle Caps --- Smarties --- "those odd marshmallow circus peanut things"***

Tier so low it does not register on our equipment

Healthy Fruit --- Pencils --- Lapel Pins --- Extra Strength Tylenol ---
"anonymous brown globs that come in black and orange wrappers" --- Now'n'Laters ---
Hugs (actual physical hugs) --- Whole Wheat anything

*These indicate the intra-family disputes. For example, I would keep Kit-Kat where it is, while other unnamed members of the family demand that it be given Top Tier Classification. That same other unnamed member of the family would not put Tootsie Rolls as a top-tier get, though I would've. Shockingly, there was no unanimous decision on the placement of Candy Corn, which as of 2006 remained unclassified, but as of 2007 has been tentatively placed in the Upper Chewy/Upper Devonian.

**Remains an outlier, since it is in no way "chewy." Further studies have not resolved this inconsistency.

***The literature shows that these are perhaps "an abomination too evil to distribute to the young nowadays."

**** Prior studies show that "the whoppers that never properly whopped and are chewy, however, should always be a top tier item."

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Outstanding work. However, I must object to this:

**** Prior studies show that "the whoppers that never properly whopped and are chewy, however, should always be a top tier item."

Anonymous comments received during peer review do not constitute "studies." Plus, un-whopped whoppers are nasty.

I would point out that Payday bars are definitely not chocolate. However, IMHO, they definitely belong in the second tier. Perhaps their presence there also points to the reason for the Jolly Ranchers (if a good flavor) in the third tier. Yes, they are outliers, but plainly demonstrate the survival of the fittest.

I'm also somewhat disturbed by the total absence of Baby Ruth, which would appear to be the earliest surviving example of the evolutionary transition from the crunchy/chewy to the the dominant chocolate realm.

Is further analysis possible to indicate at what point further exposure to a Top Tier candy reduces that candy to a lower tier? Likewise, at what point does exposure (over-exposure, really) to a candy at one tier elevate a lower tier example to a higher tier, and does such an elevation require a marked difference between texture, consistency, etc., of the example candies?

I certainly hope that the data supports such further analysis!

By Snigglefritz (not verified) on 29 Oct 2007 #permalink

I note that you completely ignored the odd items like snack-sized bags of chips. Salty might be a catagory of it's own.

Also, theoretically, where would choclate-covered pretzels rank in the heirarchy? Being both chocolate and salty would they be ranked separately in two catagories?

We always make sure to have one bag of candy with no chocolate and one bag of candy with no nuts. There's nothing worse than being a little kid at Halloween and not being able to eat the candy you collect because it could literally kill you.

Perhaps this means there is a separate ecosystem of candy, one in which the tiers are radically changed due to a different environment. In this case, candy like Starburst or Jolly Ranchers would be top tier.

Other rankings would be dependent on local cultural whims. As a kid, Black Jack gum was the cool gum.

As a child, one of my main criteria for candy was its time value, i.e. how many minutes of happiness per mass or volume of candy. Milk duds and those cow things (black cows? chocolate carmel on a stick?) were the big winners.

Tootsie roll pops would represent a transitional form between tiers 2 and 3, being essentially a tootsie roll wrapped in a good-flavored Jolly Rancher. Although now that I think about it, technically they are an example of endosymbiosis.

I'm not sure I understand the whole heirarchy system. What criteria are used to determine the tier to which a particular candy belongs? The top two tiers are both listed as being exlusively chocolate, but outside of that, what differentiates the two?
Also, do the tiers represent an inherent value in the candy or is it strictly categorical? If the top tiers are supposed to be "better" candy than the bottom tiers I am going to have to disagree and point out that they are different types of candy altogether.
Comparing chocolate candies to the friuty-flavored/sour candies is comparing apples to oranges. Both have their own qualities that make them good (or bad) candies and should be treated accordingly.

All that aside, where do dark chocolate m&ms fit in? Are they first-tier with the other m&ms or second-tier with dark chocolate?

Scotty B

Somehow you seemed to have missed the caramel tiers entirely, clearly much more study is required. I'd like to submit Caramellos into the ultra top tier category.

With much embarrassment, I admit that our household is giving out pencils this year (although in a goodie bag with halloween stickers, spider rings, and bouncy plastic skulls).

In the name of science, I will note the looks of disappointment (or excitement) as we give these out tonight, and maybe evaluate whether "goodie bags" remain at the bottom or belong elsewhere.

Nerds are bottom tier? Shenanigans!

Or maybe I just don't like chocolate that much.

Benzedrine {interrobang}

Mallowcups what about those?

And what's up with this food allergy stuff in kids? What a crock in the third world it's relativly unhead of.

Where are the Heath bars? The dark chocolate Toblerone?

I also dispute the ranking of the Nerds and Runts (and, pre-emptively, of the Spree and SweetTarts, which I assume would languish in the same layer).

"those odd marshmallow circus peanut things" = Circus Peanuts. They are manifestly evil.

Also missing from your ranking but much better than pencils and erasers: temporary tattoos.

O.K. the science is sound. The pencils were a huge disappointment for kids that received them, despite whatever sleight of hand we could do, and the "put them with stickers, yeah, and rings" strategy.

We didn't get many kids last night (it's like they knew), but the results were amazing - you could literally see the look of confusion in the children's faces when they saw what they were getting.

Next year, we're going to have to give away vending machine size Twix bars or something, or else get shunned permanently from out neighbourhood.

Seriously? This is cool. And i mostly agree with it. But somehow you forgot to include Mars. Or don't you have that in the US? It seems equal to twix, snickers and bounty. Which is missing too, but since i don't like those I don't care.

An all-caps message follows:


We gave away Play-Doh and didn't get egged or pumpkin smashed. Unless there is a statute of limitations on Halloween Tricks I think the kids liked them.

Items to be consider for the next revision-

Charleston Chew
York Peppermint Patties
Atomic Fireballs
Hot Tamales
Candy Cigarettes
Cadbury Egg
Snow Caps

After dinner peppermints go straight to the bottom. Anyone ever victimized by that for Halloween? I was a few times.

Any differentiation between dark chocolates and regular milk chocolate?

How about candy Buttons/Dots (not to be confused with those gummy Dots) I mean, you eat them and end up with an almost equal amount of paper in your mouth -- that's not candy, that's punishment. Straight to the bottom with those.

And what exactly are those "anonymous brown globs that come in black and orange wrappers"? Is that taffy?

I don't know how I could do it, but I want a whole bag of the unwhopped whoppers.

The chewy centers are almost carmel-like and SO MUCH MORE DELICIOUS than the powdery malt that you get from the traditional whopper.

Dammit. I hate whoppers, but love the defective ones! Someone help a brotha out!

By candylover (not verified) on 02 Dec 2009 #permalink

Why are people eating pencils?