Easter Crack, I Mean Candy

So I'm in Target over the weekend, on a research mission (that's how I rationalize my frequent visits). On my way to the toothpaste, I'm suddenly blinded by an intense burst of color, a swath of uber-pastels that lock my vision and bring me into a state of altered consciousness. I walk toward the light, slowly and methodically, as if in a trance (along the lines of "Scooby Doo"), unaware of everything around me but the end of the rainbow, an entire aisle of Easter candy, filled to the gills with bags of eggs, row after row seamlessly stacked as if it were one big sea inviting me to dive in and swim with the dolphins.

Robin's Eggs: You need a sharp knife to cut these candy-coated malted milk balls in half. (Kim O'Donnel)

I inch closer, in hopes of getting a good whiff, and all I really smell is plastic. But what I do notice beyond the sheer volume is the variety, the infinite ways that candy eggs are packaged, flavored, coated and marketed. Remember the good old days when an Easter basket was full of jelly beans, foil-covered milk chocolate eggs and maybe a few marshmallow Peeps? It was kitschy but simple.

These days, those old Easter basket classics are second (or maybe even third) tier items reserved for nostalgic oldtimers like yours truly. Why would you want a bag of old-school "Robin's Eggs," candy coated malted-milk balls which are hard enough to break a tooth, when you can have "Speck-tacular" M&Ms, in plain, peanut or peanut butter or Cadbury "Mini Eggs" available in milk or "royal dark" chocolate enrobed in a "crisp sugar shell."

Foil-wrapped fans get their choice of the traditional solid eggs, but at some point when I wasn't looking, a "Wonka" egg came on the scene, milk chocolate filled with some kind of graham cracker crunchy stuff. Cadbury, which is now part of the Hershey's empire, does its crème eggs but so does Snickers (yikes) and now, there are Hershey's kisses with goop inside? Come on guys; can't you just leave a good thing alone?

Wait a second. Wasn't Valentine's Day just 11 days ago?

Easter candy is serious business. According to Larry Finkel, who oversees Food and Beverage Research for MarketResearch.com, chocolate Easter candy totaled more than $433 million in grocery-drug store (FDM) sales in 2006. An additional $105 million was rung up for Peeps, jellies and other non-chocolate confections.

That's more than half a billion dollars -- in a six week stretch.

Eventually, I come to, but am stunned nonetheless at the candy trough before my grubby little hands. And it's all so cheep (I mean cheap); an 11-ounce bag of Cadbury "Mini Eggs" is $2; the Whoppers "Robin's Eggs" goes for a rock-bottom $1.33 (with enough corn sweetener to keep your teeth chattering for hours). With five bucks in my pocket, I can stay numb for at least a week. Sugar highs don't get cheaper than this, and if a few eggs are keeping me from sleeping soundly, imagine what they'll do on a school night to our candy-enthusiastic youth.

I'm all for Easter baskets and I do believe that candy is dandy, but anyone else agree we may be in overload mode? I'm still reeling from my altered state on Saturday and my teeth are still numb. Care to weigh in?

By Kim ODonnel |  February 25, 2008; 11:54 AM ET Candy
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I feel ya, Kim. I have to impose a strict rule dictating when I may begin to purchase Peeps; I usually let myself start the binge two weeks prior to Easter. And I can only restock once during the week & try to steer clear of Walgreen's for the duration. On Easter day, that's it. No mas.

Meanwhile, I'm a Jew who has never gotten an Easter basket in her life. To my mind, this has always been far more unjust than not having Christmas :-)

Posted by: patricia | February 25, 2008 12:50 PM

I was at Target yesterday too and overwhelmed. I turned my head so I couldn't see it and be tempted (I am a huge stale peeps and robins eggs fan). My kids Easter baskets have things we would end up buying them anyway to the extent possible- this year, my boys have updated soccer and t-ball equipment, my daugher girly stuff in the past it's been gardening things, sun glasses, sandals, etc. I hate policing the candy so I try not to give them too much.

Posted by: maria | February 25, 2008 1:02 PM

Kim, I would like to hear more about cooking and less about retail. Easter candy isn't really a relevant topic in my opinion.

Posted by: SS,MD | February 25, 2008 1:16 PM

Personally, I like this diversion into the topic of Easter candy. I always enjoy when this time of year rolls around because it's the only time I can get the Cadbury's mini eggs that I love! Plus, have you seen the new Cadbury's eggs with orange centers? They're better than I thought they'd be - milk chocolate, but the orange center actually has a hint of bitter orange peel in it. Yum! Kim, thanks for the posting - it put a smile on my face!

Posted by: Jo | February 25, 2008 2:54 PM

My favorites at Easter were the Mary Sue butter cream eggs. Made in Baltimore, they came in several different flavors, all coated with dark, bittersweat chocolate. We usually got coconut cream or fruit and nut eggs in our basket and we'd slice them off, eating a slice at a time. Eating the whole thing would put you into a sugar coma. Not to mention ruin your teeth. There is also a pecan-covered nouget flavor. Now they have the smaller versions in boxes of 6. I wait until the day after Easter and buy it at half-price. Another favorite is the marshmallow peeps and rabbits, wait until they're a bit stale and then indulge. We'd load up on these, stash them away for several weeks, then eat them. Major dislike at Easter -- jellybeans. I hate them; never ate the ones in my basket. What a waste of space.

Posted by: Southern Maryland | February 25, 2008 3:00 PM

Just read on the Travel chat that you are leaving them as producer. Say it ain't so! You're still hanging around with us, right? And, how can you have been the producer for the travel chats for 25 years? They had online chats before there was an "online"?

As for the retail-vs-cooking comment. It's Kim's blog. Whatever she wants to write about is fair game, IMHO. Let's try to be grateful for someone of Kim's skill, knowledge and diversity of interests who will do the considerable work to not only write a five-day-a-week blog but also respond VERY generously and graciously to people's questions and comments AND do a chat or sometimes two a week.

There are foods she writes about that include ingredients I won't touch (allergies or distaste, whatever). That doesn't mean she can't write about them because they don't float my boat.... and there is nothing to prevent a respondent from offering a home-made alternative to the bagged sugar comas.

Soapbox now available for the next in line...

Posted by: Anonymous | February 25, 2008 3:09 PM

Re: the Travel chat: Yep, I've got a new project in the works, which means letting go of my longtime producing duties for various chats on the site --- but no, I ain't that old -- and neither is washingtonpost.com! 25 years -- that John Deiner, such a kidder. However, I will keep hosting What's Cooking, which is in its ninth year and will continue to write A Mighty Appetite, with a mix of recipes, how-to, kitchen stories, and yes, sometimes food-related retail. A lil' sumthin' for everyone.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | February 25, 2008 3:17 PM


Thank you so much for posting this! I had my first Cadbury Egg of the season last night. Easter Candy means Robins Eggs, Peeps (stale...not fresh!), and Cadbury Eggs. YUM! It's always extra tasty if you get a few pieces of artifical grass in there too!

Posted by: Eggs-travaganza! | February 25, 2008 3:30 PM

Kim, I would like to hear more about cooking and less about retail. Easter candy isn't really a relevant topic in my opinion.

Posted by: SS,MD | February 25, 2008 01:16 PM

Well, get your own blog! Good grief. I'm not vegan, but I still enjoy the vegan/vegetarian chats and blogs!

Back on topic -- I was in Target over the weekend, too! I got the 4 pack of Cadbury Creme eggs and they're gone. I live by myself. I ate all four in less then two days. Eek. My biggest weakness is those eggs...I have some Peeps, too and I'll wait for them to get a little stale before I dive in.

For those looking for alternatives, the Michael's in Bowie has craft baskets pre-made and labeled by gender.

Posted by: WDC 21113 | February 25, 2008 3:40 PM

I had my first peep of the season last night.

As a kid my Easter basket consisted of jelly beans, peeps, cadbury cream eggs, and a giant chocoalte bunny. These were sometimes supplemented by hershey kisses but that'a bout it.

Personally, I love going in the mroning after when it's been plundered and everything is 75% off.

Posted by: Elizabeth | February 25, 2008 3:54 PM

My kids have seen lots of different Easter traditions--Easter isn't the extended family centered holiday that Christmas is, so we didn't try to come home to the US for it.

I remember the huge number of colored hen's eggs we made when I was a child--and being unable to duplicate this experience for my kids when we lived in the UK. Even though I could get food coloring and vinegar, the eggs were all brown....
and no cellophane grass available to buy.

So, my kids' Easter baskets were not from the Easter Bunny (which is a U S tradition). They got hollow chocolate eggs filled with goodies and something egg related (Thomas the Tank Engine egg cups anyone?) but they chose it in the store and waited until Easter to get it.

Posted by: repatriated expat | February 25, 2008 4:01 PM

bleah! reading the post makes my teeth twinge (get this: being pregnant this time has led to tooth-surface sensitivity: sweets jangle my tooth-nerves!).

Give me the foil-covered little milk chocolate eggs, but only a few, on Easter itself. No Peeps, no jelly beans.

DH's family totally goes overboard with the junk (and GIFTS!!) for the grandkids (our kids) on Easter. I have lost most appreciation for the holiday except for getting the family together to share a meal.

Posted by: centre of nowhere | February 25, 2008 5:58 PM

Cadbury? Hershey? Ewww! I read recently that Cadbury like other UK confectioners is allowed to call its product "chocolate" altho it substitutes veg oil for cacao fat. And the last time I allowed a Hershey product into my mouth, that's how it tasted. Ewww!

Posted by: David Lewiston | February 25, 2008 6:59 PM

I got sucked into this because I thought there would be an alternative to the junk shown in Target.

So, any cooking alternatives to the retail garbage?

Posted by: homemade treats | February 26, 2008 9:01 AM

I always give up candy (and this year all sweets) for Lent. So, I don't get to partake of the candy build-up to Easter. Instead I usually start my Easter morning with chocolate truffles! This year I'm thinking a honking piece of chocolate cake!

Posted by: Sweetie | February 26, 2008 11:49 AM

stick them in the freezer! even better than stale. i hid them there so i wouldnt eat them all then discovered i prefer them frozen.

Posted by: peeps | February 26, 2008 11:51 AM

My favorite candy from back in the day... Hard, pastel colored, oblong shaped things (can't remember the name for the life of me) They were hard on the outside, white and a bit chewy on the inside, VERY sweet, but man, I could not get enough of them. Can't seem to find them anywhere...

Posted by: Southern MD | February 26, 2008 12:54 PM

I love the candies that you can get at the various Amish markets in the area - they bring back the idea of Easter to me - the coconut or peanut butter eggs, spiced jelly beans, a chocolate bunny... but then again, I'm addicted to candy so I also like to try new things each year. I love easter - it's such a fun holiday for us candy fiends - better than halloween I think!

Posted by: jp | February 26, 2008 2:11 PM

Easter has by far the best candy of any holiday. Mmmm....mmmm Peeps! Mmmmm...mmmmm Robin's Eggs! And Mmmm...mmmm Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs! And I guess Jelly Beans are good too! But not those gross "spiced" ones!

Posted by: LBH219 | February 26, 2008 5:07 PM

I was in Target the other day too, and had to pause at a candy that I'm not sure how it would taste. Hershey's Kisses with Lemon Creme inside. I'm not so sure that I'd want a whole bag of them. Actually I know I don't want a whole bag of them - I left them on the shelf. But it made me kind of wonder what they were like, I must admit.

Posted by: JJ | February 28, 2008 6:06 AM

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