In my small hometown of Hatboro, just outside of Philadelphia, there’s a local institution called Stutz Candy. It’s been around since 1938 and, like any candy store, it is a magical place. You’re instantly hit with the many smells of candy made onsite and dazzled by the colorful displays of seemingly every kind of treat on the shelves. They are best known for their enormous selection of chocolates which always adorn my family’s holiday table.
So, with shelves full of chocolate goodies and the word “candy” in their name, surely that means that chocolates would qualify, right? Is chocolate considered a candy? Well, there are some people out there who aren’t so sure, and others who would adamantly argue that chocolate is in a category all its own. Is chocolate candy or not? Is this a debate we will settle here and now? Probably not, but we must give it the ol’ Sporked try.
What is candy, anyway?
First, it’s helpful to define our terms. What falls into the candy umbrella? By definition, candy is any food in which sugar is the main ingredient. So, why wouldn’t that include baked items like cupcakes or donuts? To delineate between those two, there’s another superordinate category: confections.
Confections are split into two groups: baker’s confections and sugar confections. The former has sugar, but also has a lot of flour and is baked. The latter is the sugar-first category, and includes things like candies, candied fruit and nuts, cotton candy, and even something like bubblegum. If we stuck with only these two categories, chocolate would be considered a sugar confection.
Some people believe a third category—chocolate confections—should exist to silo chocolate-based treats into their own category. But isn’t this a little unnecessary? The terms candy and chocolate present a real square-rectangle situation; all chocolate is candy but not all candy is chocolate. And if there’s going to be ingredient-based descriptors, why isn’t honey candy separate? Or candied fruits? Or nougats? Or milky treats like fudge?
I will agree: Chocolate is a special thing. So the inclination to set it in its own category seems appealing. But it is also completely redundant, especially considering it, too, is chock full of sugar, and considering who makes all these treats.
What do the candy makers think?
Like the aforementioned Stutz Candy, Logan’s Candies in Ontario, CA functions as a traditional store where candy is made onsite. And while they have become TikTok famous for their owner’s candy demonstrations, they also deal in plenty of chocolate.
The same can be said for nearly all small candy stores. Shriver’s in Ocean City, New Jersey is famous for its salt water taffy but they have loads of chocolate in their store. The same goes for The Fudge Pot in Chicago, Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie in Salem, MA, and Laura’s Candies in New Orleans. They each have a specialty, but always have a huge chocolate selection as well. If the candy stores don’t discriminate, then chocolate should be in the candy category.
The big stores don’t care either. In every grocery store and convenience store in America, Sour Patch Kids live next to Snickers which live next to Skittles which live next to Skor bars. It’s all one big happy candy family.
What would Willy Wonka say?
Augustus Gloop drowned in a chocolate river whose banks were dotted with lollipop bushes and gummy bear flowers. Wonka peddles both chocolate Wonka Bars and fruity-flavored wallpaper. If the Candy Man himself makes no distinction between chocolate and candy, then why should we?
So, is chocolate candy? I say we follow in the footsteps of Mr. Wonka and say that yes, chocolate is candy. But we’re only going by the Gene Wilder version of Wonka, not the Johnny Depp or Timothee Chalamet versions. Let’s collectively drown those two in the chocolate river.