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.
Some of today’s candies would astound those early artisans. Among this season’s more eye-catching sweets is a 1-pound gummy bunny, sold under the Target brand. In blue raspberry, cherry and pink lemonade flavors, it’s an impressively gelatinous creation that, at more than 1,000 calories, negates all that we’ve said about not sharing. No, please, have some more.
And then there are Peeps. The marshmallow chicks and bunnies have become a cultural phenomenon, subjected to all sorts of vaguely unnerving science experiments, recipe creations and craft projects. This year, the Yankee Candle company introduced a Peep-scented candle, which sold out in a heartbeat.
Even the manufacturer, Just Born, appears to push the torturous envelope a bit with its Peeps Rainbow Chicks Pops, in which yellow, green, pink and blue Peeps are skewered on a kabob. Fun!
What will be in your Easter basket tomorrow? Given that nine in 10 U.S. adults will assemble one for their kids, clearly not everyone has to wait until after Easter sunrise services to find out. But it’s a good bet that some new treats will be tucked among the old favorites.
Is there another holiday out there ripe for being candified?
Whiteside said that Easter, Christmas, Halloween and Valentine’s Day far outdistance any others, although she added that, “Mother’s Day certainly sees its fair share of chocolate launches.”
Still, she gave innovative marks to the Hershey Co. for its campaign to make s’mores — that sandwich of graham crackers, toasted marshmallows and Hershey chocolate bars — an integral part of summer gatherings, or what it calls “S’mores Occasions.”
Fine. As long as no one expects us to share.