Unjunking Halloween

 The average American eats 24 pounds of candy annually, primarily around Valentine’s Day and HalloweenUNREAL Candy Coated Peanuts (that’s according to the New York Post, and you know very well they wouldn’t exaggerate). This Halloween alone, candy sales are expected to hit a new record of $2.38 billion.


Unfortunately, that’s also $2.38 billion worth of artificial colors and flavors, high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, hydrogenated oils and genetically modified foods. Parents have been trying to fight the Halloween sugar fest—unsuccessfully—ever since I was a kid, long before we knew anything about high fructose corn syrup or GMO foods. In spite of that, giving out apples on Halloween is still the quickest way to get your house decorated with eggs. If you’re going to accumulate a bag of apples, you might as well stay in and do your homework.


Enter UNREAL Candy, created by a consortium of scientists and chefs with the goal of “unjunking” American candy. They’ve removed most of the nasty stuff, and reduced the sugar by 40%. According to the producers, it wasn’t easy (they had to find a way to keep the product fresh without preservatives), but the challenge was motivating. Compared to a serving of Peanut M & Ms, the same size indulgence of UNREAL contains one-third the carbs, 20% fewer calories, and slightly more fiber and protein. The key thing, of course, is how does it taste?


Not bad at all. I relied heavily on my wife’s judgment during the taste test, since she has more experience with kids and Halloween than I do. The candy coated peanuts seemed to have a deeper chocolate flavor than Peanut M & Ms, but her main objection was to the color—they were murky compared to M & Ms, which have a brilliant hue. While I didn’t think this would stand in the way of any kid gobbling them, I saw her point (we eat with our eyes, after all). The Nougat Bar was rich and satisfying, and tasted like regular candy, and the Caramel Peanut Nougat Bar was excellent—chewy and mouth-filling. The Peanut Butter Cups had an intense flavor, but I thought they lacked the texture of Reese’s. We felt happy at the end, without the sugar rush.


Prices for the different UNREAL varieties appear to be hovering around $4.99 for a pack of twelve—cheap enough, and better than getting your house egged.


Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, which will be published in November by Lyons Press (Globe Pequot); for more information, go to www.iconicspirits.net.

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