Want to start a fistfight amongst a group of otherwise peaceful adults? Try initiating a debate about what is the greatest candy bar of all time. This topic is apparently more sensitive than religion, politics or individual sexual preferences. One of my buddies even has a fairly evolved formula for candy bar success; he strongly advocates having exactly three ingredients (most likely including milk chocolate and caramel) with the key third ingredient providing a “consistent crunch” throughout the bar. He’s a Twix fan. There’s a lot of them out there – go to Google Images. There are about 7 billion pictures of cats and dogs named Twix. Anyway, I surveyed a large amount of people (probably at least 8) from a variety of demographics (white guy, white guy, white girl, white guy, Chinese Metrosexual, white guy, white guy, white guy).
Here is an exclusive excerpt from one of these conversations:
Me: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are pretty delicious, particularly in Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg form.
Insane Person: Those are cups, though – you can’t include them in a candy bar discussion. They should be in the candy cup category.
Me: Hmmm. That seems like a pretty narrow category.
For the sake of this comparison/ranking, I considered only candy type snacks traditionally found in the bottom 2-4 rows of a vending machine. Only those items for sale at the prevailing price of a candy bar are eligible – sometimes they sneak some Ferrero Rocher or other high end shit in those rows.
I rated each in four areas (the higher the score, the better):
Taste: Obviously, with consideration given to complexity and presentation
Viable Meal Substitute?: Bonus points for heartiness (Skittles and the like don’t fare well here)
Envy / Sharing Factor: Do you get lascivious looks when you’re about to dig in? Do idiotic colleagues offer zingers like “Doh, there goes the diet!”? Do people consistently want you to “break me off a little of that”? (This is a complex rating because too much envy+convenience of giving someone “a bite” = reduced satisfaction. It is impossible to achieve a 10 – that would have to be the most delicious, desired candy that was 1 molecule in size and thus unshareable.)
Spin-offs Generated? How Many?: It must be a pretty good candy if they are putting out fucking sequels (this also allows me to consider all of the flagship brands together – just distinguishing between the types of M&M variants would have been a monster task by itself)
#10 – Payday
Introduced: 1932 (now owned by Hershey)
Taste: 7.5 (Always suprisingly satisfying; bonus points for being on the bleeding edge of sweet/salty technology)
Viable Meal Substitute?: 8.0 (You might skip a meal after eating one of these)
Envy / Sharing Factor: 2.0 (People are generally wondering what the hell it is and don’t want any part of it; breaking into smaller components would create even more peanut carnage in the general vicinity so almost never shared)
Spin-offs Generated? How Many?: 1 (Payday Chocolately Avalanche? I’ve never seen it. Frickin Wikipedia – they missed two other spinoffs, a honey roasted and a “pro” energy bar. So make it 3.)
Personal History/Trivia/Other: This is kind of an old school candy bar, don’t be afraid to give it a shot if you’ve never had one. It’s somewhat messy as about 15% of the peanuts will become somehow unattached to the bar and will fall out of the package onto your clothing as soon as you open it. Also the fact that it’s basically just peanuts on some caramel will leave a residue on your hands strong enough to seal envelopes or perform other basic bonding tasks.
Also, the gentleman who created Payday also created the Zero bar – which ironically received zero votes when compiling this comprehensive list. Friggin Bit-O-Honey even got a shout out – the first time ever from a non-dentist.
#9 – Butterfinger
Introduced: 1923 (now owned by Nestle)
Taste: 7.7 (Pretty delicious, even though no one has any idea what that orange shit in the middle is)
Viable Meal Substitute?: 8.0(Reasonably filling but a bit of a pure candy sensibility)
Envy / Sharing Factor: 7.0 (People will definitely leer, but it’s almost as hard to share as a Payday given the apparently tenuous molecular structure bonding the chocolate to the orange shit; it sprays everywhere if you even give it a terse look)
Spin-offs Generated? How Many?: 10+ (Notable: Butterfinger Buzz, somehow injected with caffeine. Genius.)
Personal History/Trivia/Other: Honestly, this was never a huge favorite of mine – seemed a bit too Halloweeny or something. I do respect it’s appeal though and can say a Butterfinger has generally done the job in a pinch. Bonus points to Nestle for getting Butterfinger banned in Germany for using genetically modified corn (I guess that orange shit is some kind of corn byproduct)
#8 – Heath / Skor
Introduced: Around 1928 (the ripoff – err, Skor bar was created by Hershey in 1981 to compete with Heath. Now Hershey owns them both, but suprisingly the chocolate-covered toffee market is robust enough to sustain both brands)
Taste: 8.0 (Let’s face it, toffee is pretty delicious, despite the fact that it remains stuck in your teeth until your next dental cleaning)
Viable Meal Substitute?: 3.0 (Won’t sustain you – I have tried having two Skors to compensate, resulting in a 4 hour stomachache. Although i guess technically that ended my hunger situation)
Envy / Sharing Factor: 6.0 (Practically everyone loves toffee – have to dock Heath due to having 2 squares, perfect for someone to snake half from you.)
Spin-offs Generated? How Many?: 0 (Apparently there is no need to try and establish the white chocolate raisin toffee market)
Personal History/Trivia/Other: I have a strong affection for the Heath bar as my mom used to eat like 3 of these per day. Her standard order at the local Git-n-Go: Heath bar and Peach Nehi. I got to play Dig Dug. Win/win.
#7 – Whatchamacallit
Introduced: 1978 (by Hershey – ahh…I remember it like yesterday; the first one of these born of my generation)
Taste: 8.4(Despite the ambiguous “peanut-flavored crisp” center, you’re really dealing with crisped rice, caramel and chocolate. Delectable.)
Viable Meal Substitute?: 8.5 (. Stays with you, can hold you over for 1.5 hours or so)
Envy / Sharing Factor: 9.5 (They will want it. The name alone makes them afraid to ask; best in category in that regard)
Spin-offs Generated? How Many?: 0 (No need to modify something so well-conceived)
Other: When i was a summer intern at Merrill Lynch, i had one solid semester of microeconomics theory under my belt. Fully understanding supply/demand and market power, I decided to corner the market on Whatchamacallits. I had used my nightly meal allowance to basically recreate the entire Merrill on-site convenience store in my office (okay, cubicle). I focused on the Whatchamacallit sector as my means were not endless (capped at $25/day). Like the Hunt Brothers, I faced financial ruin when trading rules changed overnight and the demand for the caramel-covered, peanut flavored logs of deliciousness plummeted. Actually, i think i just ended up with like 20 free Whatchamacallits. Whatever, I learned an important lesson about speculating.
#6 – Nestle Crunch / Krackel
Introduced: Crunch, 1938, Krackel also 1938??? (Didn’t you always just assume that Hershey made the Krackel in 1975 to compete with the simple deliciousness that is a Nestle Crunch?)
Taste: 9.0 (Sometimes simple is best – in either form, you know what you’re getting and it always delivers. I need to figure out how to get standalone crisped rice in my diet because it works so well as a candy bar component. Unless that’s what’s in a rice cake; if so, pass)
Viable Meal Substitute?: 6.0 (Not really; you’d get a little more mileage out of a Krackel as it seems to have a larger chocolate component, but they stopped making full-size Krackels so you’d probably have to eat like 70 of those tiny ones that your Grandma has in a bowl by the phone. And the calories burned by opening all those tiny foil packages would probably make you net hungrier than you started)
Sharing Factor: 8.0 (Bystanders will clearly want a piece of any kind of crisped rice action, but the Nestle Crunch is one huge slab so you can make it pretty unappealing for them to ask by carefully placing that first bite. I believe when they made the full-size Krackel that it was perforated – you were gonna have to share that shit)
Spin-offs Generated? How Many?: 5+ (Crisps, dark chocolates, Ice creams – the usual)
Personal History/Trivia/Other: I cannot find the exact date of the truce, but it appears the (full-sized) Crunch/Krackel War raged for 70 years or more. Unclear how many casualties were suffered, but their memories will be forever preserved in those mixed bags of miniature candy bars sold by Nestle and Hershey.
#5 – KitKat
Introduced: 1935 (produced by Nestle everywhere but the US, where its produced by – guess who? – Hershey)
Taste: 9.0 (For something so simple and seemingly unappealing, it is a culinary delight)
Viable Meal Substitute?: 8.5 (One of the many variations, the Big Kat, is pretty robust and served as brunch during many days as a banking associate)
Sharing Factor: 4.0 (Consistently delicious/desired but way, way, too convenient to break up and share – it was even in their all-time jingle. Probably how they lured us all in)
Spin-offs Generated? How Many?: 50+?? (Good lord – they have Soy Sauce KitKat and Edamame KitKat in Japan! For your review: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kit_Kat) (3/4/2010 Update: Wasabi KitKat reviewed!)
Personal History/Trivia/Other: I consider the Big Kat one of the few home runs of the innumerable spin-offs that our top 5 have spawned.
#4 – M&M’s
Introduced: 1941 (Mars)
Taste: 9.0 (Candy shell is surprisingly a perfect accompaniment for the chocolate and in some cases, nuts)
Viable Meal Substitute?: 7.0 (Maybe, if it’s the Almond or Peanut M&Ms)
Sharing Factor: 3.0 (Way too easy – if there are other people in your vacinity, i guarantee you are giving up some M&Ms. Even to total strangers – just like McDonalds french fries, the mere sight of M&Ms will make everyone suddenly your best friend)
Spin-offs Generated? How Many?: 20+ (Plus they have insanely capitalized on personalization of the candies – your face laser-stenciled on an M&M! Stellar)
Personal History/Trivia/Other: Kudos to Mars for their beyond-savvy marketing efforts here. How many other brands would embrace a playground urban legend (“green M&Ms make you horny”)? There are even green M&M valentine’s packages with double entendres – I am astonished they haven’t yet come up with some co-marketing deal with Levitra.
When i moved to a new town in 9th grade, i used to drown my sorrows (at again being the fucking “new guy”) with some plain M&Ms and a Coke just after P/E (following what i’m sure were some insane kickball workouts). The local bully, let’s call him Rob, was fairly excited to have someone new to fuck with. So one day as I’m putting my hard earned cash in the Coke machine, Rob quickly pushes Tab before I have time to react. Tab is not delicious. Later, walking down the hall, i was going to pour the last of my plain M&Ms into my mouth (as I was holding some books, this was before those newfangled bookbags). Being a thinking man’s bully, Rob smacked the bag – knocking probably 15 M&Ms straight into the air, and then caught them in his shirt pocket. No shit. I had to applaud that effort. Then, just like in My Bodyguard, i paid him to protect me from some other little bastards and we became friends and shared rides on a motorcycle (after finding some emotional common ground of course). Rob, last i heard, is in jail (but still pretty funny, I’m sure).
#3 – Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups / Eggs
Introduced: 1928 (Man, all the great candies are old as shit! Currently produced by Hershey)
Taste: 10.0 (I’m referring specifically to the Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg here – the ratio of peanut butter to chocolate is perfection! I think the ridges on the cups throw this key ratio out of whack slightly and result in an inferior taste)
Viable Meal Substitute?: 1.0 (You would probably have to eat 10 cups)
Sharing Factor: 1.0 (They come in a package of 2 or 4, you will have a moral and social obligation to give up half. There’s no one among us strong enough to resist)
Spin-offs Generated? How Many?: 20+ (Including, shockingly, Reese’s Swoops, which are apparently stacked like Pringles)
Personal History/Trivia/Other: As a sophomore at the Academy, i used to fire up an RC Cola and Kingsize Reese’s Cups (for $1.0o even) on my way to some boring-assed English class. When i was at business school i would frequently stop at the Rite-Aid after a night on the town and get a 3×3 box of Reese’s Eggs (apparently they prep for Easter season year round in Boston). On a good night i could hold myself back from eating all nine. Once I left my jacket in the cab, as well as the grocery bag holding my Eggs and Pepsi One (the one with Splenda is horrendous; the original was a nectar of the gods (or Cuba Gooding Jr.)). I nearly cried over the loss of those nine eggs and am still saddened by it.
Update (3/11/2013): Last Christmas, Reese’s offered these ginormous 1/2 pound cups (two for $15). I got some for Christmas and lugged them around with me waiting for the perfect opportunity to eat them. Finally, I decided I would get to see if they’d achieve even more perfect peanut butter/chocolate harmony after the 49ers won the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, I had to delay a little longer and after finally unveiling them, the peanut butter was actually a little bit chalky, not creamy like in the regular size. The surprising thing is, when you look at this cross section, it looks like a signficantly higher ratio of chocolate to peanut butter than the eggs (despite the lack of ridges) – however given the giant size of these, you really need the chocolate because you are eating it like a slice of pizza and it generally is a large quantity of peanut butter in every bite. Verdict – tasty novelty item, but does not surpass the regular egg version.
#2 – Twix
Introduced: 1967 (hit the U.S. in 1979 – I recall this and Coleco Electronic Quarterback as pivotal product introductions of the time)
Taste: 9.8 (Strongest embodiment of the “three ingredient theory”)
Viable Meal Substitute?: 6.0 (Will buy you an hour, max, but you will be surprisingly at peace with the world during that hour)
Sharing Factor: 2.0 (Comes in two bars, breaks cleanly, everyone enjoys it)
Spin-offs Generated? How Many?: 30+ (Including more than one orange variant)
Personal History/Trivia/Other: As a banker, i traveled internationally quite a bit; Twix is everywhere. Available in hotel mini-bars from Melbourne to Oslo, I gave Twix a smidge of extra credit for this huge global presence. And Twix was originally called Raider in many parts of Europe until 1991. A former colleague of mine from Germany was still dubious about what went down; diehard Euros believe there was more than a name change in the switch from Raider to Twix. Why? Did Raider have a popcorn crunch? A pork rind crunch? How hard is it to determine if its different? There’s only three ingredients? Silly Euros…
#1 – Snickers
Introduced: 1930 (Mars)
Taste: 9.9 (Chocolate? Check. Caramel? Check. Nuts? Boom, roasted. Nougat? Yeah, there’s nougat)
Viable Meal Substitute?: 10.0 (Definitively, the original meal replacement/energy bar)
Sharing Factor: 9.7 (People would love to get in on some of that, but with a Snickers you can always justifiably say “Dude, I didn’t get a chance to eat lunch. Can’t help you out”)
Spin-offs Generated? How Many?: 20+ (Including the Marathon energy bar and, apparently, flapjacks)
Personal History/Trivia/Other: I don’t have much to add here. Over $2 billion in annual sales. Mars changed the name of the “Mars Bar” to the “Snickers with Almonds.” The fucking name of the company is Mars! And they still went with booting the Mars name from their original candy bar offering! That is a strong marketing presence. Would a “Snickers Iphone” be the most popular consumer product of all time?
Although I am sure the above reflects the consensus opinion of all readers, please feel free to comment if you believe there are errors/omissions.
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