Sunday, May 24, 2009

Bulk Candy: The Gourmand's Dilemma

If you have ever been in a modern candy store-- and I mean a real candy store, a place that ONLY sells candy -- you know that almost all candy there is sold in bulk. In fact, many grocery stores, following the example of these fancier 'boutiques,' now often feature a bulk candy aisle alongside the traditional packaged candy section.

A typical stand-alone bulk candy display.

The sight/site of so much candy can, indeed, make one feel like a kid in a candy store. The sheer scope of these displays of candy is astounding. Pounds and pounds of all sorts of confection dazzle the eye and delight the nose. Especially when one enters a candy shoppe, the sensory assault can be overwhelming. Chocolates, hard candies, sours, gummis, jelly beans, bit'o'honeys, gumballs... the list goes on and on. For anyone wanting volume, variety and a sugar-induced coma, bulk candy is the way to go. And in fact, there are many varieties of candy that it it very hard to find in any other form than bulk (in stores or in quarter candy machines in supermarkets).
I admit to having many times gotten a hodge-podge bag of goodness and eaten until I could stomach no more.

These Blox candies and Tangy Tarts are notoriously hard to find in packaged quantities.

, there are a number of negatives when it comes to bulk candy. First, the cost. These days, one can find very few, if any, bulk candy prices that are less than $5.99/lb (and usually, $7.49 is more the norm). This is against the very nature of the pricing of goods. If generic cereals and green beans have taught us anything, it's that we spend more buying the brand,
the packaging, the distribution, and the advertising that come with goods, than the actual goods. None of that applies to these bulk candy suppliers, so why is the candy so much more expensive? When I get some malted milk balls in bulk, am I paying for Whoppers? I think not! I am getting Bill's Candy Warehouse's finest. A further example: I can get a 5-lb bag of gummi bears in pretty much any store for like $10 or so, but I am supposed to pay $6-8/lb in bulk because I can get gummi dinosaurs and gummi penguins? Newsflash! Shape is not equal to flavor! Everyone knows that buying things in bulk is cheaper, yet you, bulk candy people, are selling some ideal of "boutique" to me (I guess) with these outrageous prices. Shame. Shame.

Another draw-back of the bulk candy is freshness/cleanliness. There has been many an occasion where I have tried to dig into a mound of Swedish Fish or Juji Fruit, only to find that the mound is, in fact, a clump. You have to be really careful to verify the freshness of the candy in these things. Also, though there are marked signs that indicate that only scoops should be used to get the candies out of the bins, you know that a TON of grimy rugrats have had their greasy little paws all over a bunch of that candy. And, those bins are not air-tight, so all air-borne bacteria are making quite a home in the bins. You may sacrifice your health by eschewing factory sealed packaging. It's like a bacterial Club Med in there.

Here are the green apple, grape, strawberry, orange and lime strains of staphylococcus.

Finally, you rarely get the premium brands of candy in bulk. As I already alluded to, Whoppers will not be Whoppers, gummis will not be Haribo, and Swedish Fish will be "Scandinavian Water Creatures." So even if you find some
relatively cheap, fresh-looking candy in bulk bins, often you are getting inferior candy stock. And that means no packaging, which is a big lack. I like to know about the candy I am eating and in what proportion the maltodextrin is to the citric acid. These things sooth me.

All in all, though, I cannot say that all these things have kept me wholly away from the bulk bins. There is something about seeing all that candy in such variety. Their siren song will no doubt pull my ship onto the crags again.

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