Americans Sooth Candy Craving with Sweet $23 Billion: Danes Lead World, 34 Pounds Each

Article excerpt

We're a sweet nation. Really.

Candy has become a toothsome allegory of everything from fond memory to scientific rationale in our culture.

We are beguiled.

Americans spent a record $23 billion on candy in 1998, each of us wolfing down 27 pounds a year, according to the National Confectioners Association.

It's not the sweetest sweet tooth in the world, though. That honor belongs to Denmark, where the average person eats 34 pounds of candy a year.

Americans, however, have more emotional entanglements with their candy, and our needs are quite specific.

For some, there is little that a good old Atomic Fire Ball won't fix.

George Schauer is attuned to the candy-comfort index of those whose confectionery experiences must include nostalgia.

Mr. Schauer owns Sugar Memories, a small Ohio company that assembles candy care packages for baby boomers intent on the sweets of their past - from Pink Owl bubble gum cigars to Lik-a-Maid, Sugar Daddies and such mystery fare as chewable wax lips and those intriguing little bottles filled with fuchsia elixir.

Those have a name, by the way: Nik-L-Nip.

"You get 40 items," Mr. Schauer said. "A lot of people out there feel very close to these candies. They bring back carefree days in a very specific way."

Priced at $20, the collection is actually called "Hard to Find Candies from the 1960s." Business is brisk because these sweets have not changed over the years - they simply are what they are.

More than 65 percent of American candy brands, in fact, have been around for over 50 years, according to the confectionery association.

"These candies have been a constant in our lives, and they're fun," said Mr. Schauer, who is still under the spell of jujubes.

At the other end of the spectrum is the "Candy That Has No Reason to Exist Variety Pack," from an on-line company called Stupid Candy, which also carries the "Disgusting Treats" collection.

Sweets get freaky here. There are candy rats and maggots, candy sand, candy french fries and candy that whistles, releases edible "paint" and glows in the dark.

Stupid Candy may be onto something, though.

The confectionery association reports that the demand for "novelty candy" has risen by 35 percent in recent years.

Promotional and corporate candy abounds. Chocolate, for example, is molded into just about anything, from tools to computer floppy discs and commemorative medallions for the millennium, even El Monica chocolate cigars (about which nothing more will be said here). …