We're all ears for new Easter candy

  • Article by: KIM ODE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 18, 2014 - 1:21 PM

The tradition of Easter baskets gets sweeter, and more inventive, every year. From giant gummy bunnies to skewered Peeps, we love our candy.

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Chocolate bunnies still rule the store aisles during Easter, but new versions are facing off against these favorites, with rabbits now made of gummy candy, or pretzel bits, or the flavors of popular candy bars.

Photo: Brian Peterson, • brian.peterson@startribune.com,

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Nine in 10 Americans eat a chocolate Easter bunny by first biting off its ears.

This is a no-brainer, so much so that you have to wonder about the lone holdout. Feet apparently are the next likely first bite. But who knows for sure? A person who doesn’t first eat the ears might say anything.

Still, the folks at the National Confectioners Association can only report what people tell them, such as that eight in 10 parents snitch candy from their kids’ Easter stash. Oh, please.

They all do.

How else does one country spend $2.26 billion on Easter candy?

The sheer breadth of choices might have something to do with it. Each spring, the Easter candy aisles are marvels of inventiveness, ingenuity and the occasional desperation of candy manufacturers everywhere.

For starters, eggs now are made from almost every top candy bar: Twix, Snickers, Milky Way, Crunch, Butterfinger, Almond Joy, Reese’s and more — even Dubble Bubble bubble gum. Special props to Reese’s, by the way, for coming up with the Reester Bunny. Somebody earned a bonus.

Familiar treats appear in pastel colors, from Mike and Ikes to Pepperidge Farm Goldfish.

Lindt goes far beyond simple bunny figures, making chocolate carrots, frogs, lambs, hens and chicks.

Hershey, however, has Snapsy, a pre-sectioned rabbit that snaps apart into ears, basket, torso, head and haunch. It’s marketed as a treat to share, which is an endearingly hilarious concept. No one shares their candy! Even parents will bypass a torso.

Russell Stover also has a pre-sectioned rabbit this year, but, coming too late to the naming game, is stuck with calling it the Break-It Rabbit.

Still, the company has a long Easter tradition as a purveyor of filled chocolates. Today, its creams and caramels are joined by fillings such as carrot cake, birthday cake, wedding cake and cookie dough. A rabbit shot through with pretzel pieces got great reviews last year on various candy blogs. You didn’t know people blogged about candy? Many do. Many.

We could go on — we haven’t even mentioned edible grass (for good reason, if you’ve tasted it) — but the point is that Easter brings a variety of candies that outpaces even Halloween, when frankly all you have to do is make a bite-sized bar.

“The candy industry as a whole is innovative in that way,” said Susan Whiteside of the National Confectioners Association. It helps that Easter presents a specific theme to explore, she said, and the finite nature of the holiday means that “companies can experiment with new flavors, concepts and limited editions without tremendous risk.”

This year, she expects sales to be 4 percent higher than last year. Once again: $2.26 billion.

Easter trumped Halloween

The tradition of Easter candy dates to the early 1800s, when chocolatiers in Europe started making eggs for the holiday, according to “Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure,” by Samira Kawash, who blogs at the CandyProfessor.com. By the end of the century, U.S. candy-makers were making hollow eggs, filled eggs and elaborate hollow sugar eggs with scenes inside. As technology advanced, more shapes became possible. While Halloween barely registered as a candy holiday, Easter candy production schedules started in January to meet the demand, Kawash wrote.

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