If you paid attention in biology, you may remember that human beings are primed to crave sugar. When we gorge on, say, Skittles or Sour Patch Kids, our levels of dopamine, linked to the pleasure centers in our brain, rise.
That means regular consumption of candy on a long road trip is a must.
We have some recommendations about how to stock your vehicle before you enter your final destination in the navigation system.
We've based our selections on a few highly subjective ground rules:
- Road trips are not a time for artisanal anything, so there will be no mention of infusions or dried fruit or ginger sea salt.
- We're long on hard and chewy sweets because, even if you're motoring across the country in a luxury sedan, your candy is not completely safe from sun or heat.
- Many of our recommendations are packaged in single-serving cardboard boxes or plastic pouches.
- We are (temporarily) disregarding all those sugar-is-death warnings from the medical industrial complex — as are many Americans. In the 52 weeks that ended on April 30, 2016, we spent $21.5 billion on candy, a 2.6% increase over the previous 12 months.
So pop open that Diet Dr Pepper, shove a Tootsie Pop in your mouth and hit the highway.
Good & Plenty
What: Chewy, licorice-flavored bits housed in a thin candy shell.
Basics: Good & Plenty, first manufactured at the end of the 19th century, is one of the country's oldest continually produced brands. Fans like the contrast between the sweet candy shell and the pungent licorice flavor (but licorice is polarizing, so unless you're traveling alone, you'd be well advised to carry alternatives).
Trivia: The oblong candies come in white and deep pink. That rosy hue comes from two ingredients: Red 40 and K-carmine, the latter of which is derived from the crushed bodies of female cochineal, or scale, insects.
Price: About $1 to $2.49 for a 6-ounce box
What: Tiny, baby-brick-shaped candies housed in collectible dispensers.
Basics: Pez candies aren't usually cited for their flavor. For most consumers, the thrill is in the packaging. Over the years, the dispensers have been manufactured with a variety of flip-up heads, including Hello Kitty, Paul Revere, Elvis, "Lord of the Rings" characters, and several U.S. presidents, including Millard Fillmore.
Trivia: Collectors are known to gather regularly at conventions. Pezamania, which bills itself as the largest such gathering, is scheduled for July 20-22 in Cleveland.
Price: About $1 to $2.99 for a dispenser with two to three packs of candy
Lemonheads and their cousins, Chuckles, Jujyfruits and Red Hots
What: Tiny, crunchy, yellow candies that are part of the Ferrara Candy Co., as are Chuckles, Jujyfruits and Red Hots.
Basics: The sweet and sour taste of Lemonheads is not exactly subtle. Candy purists (who wax about flavorings, balance and "notes") may not give them a second thought, but ignore the haters and give in to the sweets that crack between (or stick to) your teeth.
Chuckles, which come in a package of five, may satisfy a craving for jelly candy. Jujyfruits are gum-drop-like, starch-based sweets, and Red Hots (once known as cinnamon imperials) probably need no explanation.
Trivia: Jujyfruits were featured in the 86th episode of "Seinfeld," in which Elaine, hearing that her boyfriend has been in an accident and has landed in the hospital, stops to buy a box before going to see him, somehow prompting a breakup.
Price: Lemonheads, $1.99 to $2.29 for a 5-ounce box; Chuckles, $1.49 to $1.99 for a pack of five candies; Jujyfruits, $1.99 to $2.49 for a 5-ounce box; Red Hots, $1.99 to $2.29 for a 5-ounce box
Sour Patch Kids
What: Soft, chewy candies shaped like children.
Basics: Sour Patch Kids are all about texture and a combination of sweet and sour flavors. They were introduced to the U.S. market in 1985 and were, for a time, a staple of post-soccer-game snacks and movie theater concession stands.
Trivia: Each piece is coated with "invert sugar" (a mix of fructose and glucose) and "sour sugar," which includes citric and tartaric acids.
Price: About $1.75 to $2 for an 8-ounce bag
What: A peanut caramel bar.
Details: Think of it as an energy bar. With all those peanuts rolled in caramel and a center that resembles nougat, it's a great midafternoon pick-me-up (and it’s much slower to melt than chocolate). For road-trippers of a certain age, it may inspire nostalgia for an era when no one thought about blood glucose levels.
Trivia: Several years ago, PayDays were promoted with the slogan "Can you make it to your next PayDay?" and a nickel was wrapped with every bar.
Price: About $1 to $1.50 for a 1.85 -ounce bar
Big Hunk and Abba-Zaba
What: Big Hunk is a long, white bar of nougat with roasted peanuts; Abba-Zaba is another long, white(ish) bar of taffy with a peanut butter center.
Basics: We suspect that Big Hunks appeal to road-trippers who are fearless when it comes to loose fillings. It was introduced in the 1950s and later became part of the Annabelle Candy Co., which also makes Abba-Zabas. (Both bars will survive in hot cars for much longer than chocolate.)
Trivia: Abba-Zabas have been referenced in several movies, TV shows and songs, including the 1998 Dave Chappelle film "Half Baked" and the 1999 Tom Waits song "Chocolate Jesus."
Price: Big Hunk, $1.29 to $1.69 for a 2-ounce bar; Abba-Zaba, 99 cents to $1.69 for a 2-ounce bar
Mike and Ike
What: Chewy, oblong-shaped candies that come in several flavors.
Details: Your appetite for Mike and Ike may be related to your tolerance for the entire line of candies — including Hot Tamales and Peeps — produced by the Just Born company.
Trivia: Mike and Ike have wormed their way into pop culture, with mentions in TV shows such as "Scrubs" and "Family Guy."
Price: About 98 cents to $2.49 for a 5-ounce box
What: Flat candy discs packaged in a paper tube.
Details: Necco Wafers are sometimes associated with baby boomers, and it's easy to find people of a certain age who happily recount how they survived long, hot summers by consuming roll after roll. Fans are vociferous about the look (kind of like a communion wafer) and the flavors: lemon, lime, orange, clove, cinnamon, wintergreen, licorice and chocolate. Detractors sometimes complain about a chalky taste and have been to known to place them on lists of "worst Halloween candy." Ignore them.
Trivia: Necco is one of the oldest continuously operating candy brands in the U.S. "The wafers were shipped to battlefields during the Spanish-American War and during World War I," according to "A Brief History of Necco" at Eater.com. Perhaps it had something to do with the long shelf life, rumored to be two years.
Price: About $1.29 to $1.69 for a 2-ounce tube
What: Sweet and sour candies that are somehow both crunchy and chewy.
Details: Skittles, introduced in the U.S. in 1979, were quick to catch on with Gen-Xers and millennials.
Trivia: Earlier this year, there was a Skittles spill on a Wisconsin roadway, and some accounts suggested that the candy was destined to be cattle feed. Parent company Mars said that particular batch of candy was supposed to be destroyed, rather than fed to cattle, but the episode spotlighted a practice that surprised many city folk: Unwanted sweets are sometimes added to livestock feed as a source of cheap carbohydrates. If you detect the taste of "Green Apple" in your burger, now you know why.
Price: About 99 cents to $1.50 for a 2.17-ounce pouch
Smarties and candy necklaces
What: They are, in order: sweet and sour candies; straws loaded with sweet and sour candy that has been pulverized; and tiny, pebble-like sweets, all part of the Nestle empire.
Trivia: Pixy Stix were a key ingredient (along with Cap 'n' Crunch) in a sandwich made by Ally Sheedy in "The Breakfast Club."
Prices: SweeTarts, about 99 cents to $1.30 for a 1.8-ounce roll; Pixy Stix, about $1 to $2.49 for a pack of several straws in assorted flavors; Nerds; about $1 to $2 for a 1.65-ounce box
What: It's that stuff you can chew for a long time but aren't supposed to swallow.
Details: Americans haven't abandoned chewing gum, but, after dire warnings from medical professionals, they are changing their habits and turning to sugarless varieties. We embrace the concept of dental health, but for purposes of a road trip, we hold out for the sugared-up version of golden oldies, brands including Bazooka (introduced in 1947), Dubble Bubble (invented in 1928), Hubba Bubba (introduced in 1979), Juicy Fruit (1893) and Doublemint (1914). There's nothing like sitting in a car and going through several packages of gum in a day, just to binge on fresh flavor and sugar. (But don’t forget that gum can melt in a hot car.) We applaud the American Dental Assn. seal of approval that has been awarded to brands such as Trident and Orbit, but for road trip purposes, we just don't care.
Trivia: Jimmy Buffett included a song titled "Grapefruit — Juicy Fruit" on his 1973 album "A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean."
Price: Bazooka, about $2 to $2.49 for a 6.34-ounce pack; Dubble Bubble, about $2 to $2.65 for a 1-ounce pack; Hubba Bubba, about 99 cents for a pack of five; Juicy Fruit and Doublemint, about 35 cents each for a five-stick pack.
What: A hard candy lollipop surrounding a Tootsie Roll center
Details: It's challenging to imagine a road trip without a Tootsie Pop moment. The hard shell. The chewy center. The stick that allowed all young children in an earlier era to pretend they had a cigarette dangling from their lips. It doesn't get much better than that.
Trivia: In 2015, the New York Post reported on one of the great candy questions of all time: How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? Apparently a doctoral student and his colleagues at New York University came up with an answer: about 2,500 licks.
Price: About $1.49 to $2 for a pack of eight
What: Colorful candies that were originally manufactured with a milk chocolate filling and a hard-candy shell
Details: We are making a chocolate exception for M&M's, one of the most popular candies in the U.S. If you don't want the original, you can stock up on, say, peanut or almond M&M's or M&M's with peanut butter or pretzel fillings. They come in milk, dark and white chocolate, and flavors include candy corn and white chocolate.
Trivia: Actors who have voiced the brand's mascots include John Goodman, Jon Lovitz and J.K. Simmons
Price: M&M's Milk Chocolate, 97 cents to $1 for a 1.69-ounce pouch; M&M's Peanut, about $1 to $1.29 for a 1.74 -ounce pouch.
What: Ring-shaped candy mints packaged in paper-wrapped aluminum rolls
Details: Life Savers are a classic hard candy, introduced in the early 20th century and stuffed in Christmas stockings for decades. Today there are Life Saver gummies and sour gummies and mints — and dozens of flavors, but if you're new to the concept, we suggest you stick with Life Saver five-flavors roll: cherry, raspberry, watermelon, orange and pineapple.
Trivia: Clarence Crane, father of poet Hart Crane, created Life Savers,
Price: About $1.49 to $2.99 for a roll of 14 candies in five flavors
Haribo Gold-Bears Gummi Candy
What: Bear-shaped fruit-gum candies.
Details: There are a lot of gummies on the market, but Haribo Gold Bears have a huge following — consumers who eat them by the bag. Gummi fans often note that one of the key ingredients is gelatin, a source of protein, which almost elevates Gummis to health food status.
Trivia: Thrillist reports that in the ’30s, the Haribo company "produced a line of 'Teddy Bear' gummies named for [Teddy] Roosevelt, presumably because of his habit of eating actual bears.”
Price: About $2 to $2.29 for a 5-ounce pack
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