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Ranking Halloween candy, from Reese's Cups to Ring Pops

Whether you trick or treat or buy discounted candy on November 1st this Halloween, some candy you encounter is better than others.  – Photo by Sebbi Strauch / Unsplash

It’s fall. People are ordering pumpkin-flavored drinks from their cafes of choice, admiring the cascade of colorful leaves now blanketing the ground and being incredibly thankful for their place of residence’s functional heating unit.

But those without immediate access to a calendar may be left wondering when exactly in fall we are. Another, more specific indicator as to the time of year might be the abundance of skeletons currently inhabiting people’s front lawns, the increasing prevalence of pumpkin intestine-stained newspapers in people’s garbage cans and the annual reemergence of  Spirit Halloween stores across neglected shopping centers all over the country. 

The Halloween season, much like its year-end holiday counterparts, seems to begin earlier and earlier each year. Stores are rushing to replace s’mores ingredients and summer cook-out supplies with bright orange-colored bags of pumpkin-shaped candies just waiting to be distributed to a small child in a Darth Vader costume.

Halloween candy is no laughing matter. Everybody wants the reverence of being known as the “full-sized bar” house in the neighborhood as opposed to those losers down the street who could only afford to give out junior mints and apples and are in the process of cleaning the eggs off the side of their house.

And much like anything with a wide variety of options, some are seen as more desirable than others, which is why I took the liberty of compiling a tier-list of different Halloween candies with my buddy Ash Ardito, a School of Arts and Sciences sophmore. We based the list not only on how much we personally enjoyed each entry but also on how we’d feel receiving them as kids on Halloween.


The candy that Ash most wanted on Halloween was a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, while I myself chose Dots.

As is customary whenever I create a tier list with friends, each person present gets one slot in the “favorites” tier. This spot is undisputed — of the choices, you can put whatever you’d like up there for whatever reason, and nobody can argue its position since they also get a favorite candidate.

Knowing this, I was stuck between my two confectionary darlings: Mike & Ikes and Dots. I adored them both for their bold fruity flavor and chewy consistency but ultimately decided to side with Dots as I felt they edged out my love for the cylindrical jellybean-esque candies, just by a hair.

In addition, multi-person tier lists are as much a test of political aptitude as they are a means of categorizing the quality of related items. Everybody has their own agenda, and it’s almost certain items you would score highly would be lower on your friend’s list. As a result, deliberations often must occur with each item, as both sides debate why they feel an item should be on a certain part of the list before eventually coming to a negotiated conclusion.

This reality also influenced my decision as I felt I could more easily argue Mike & Ikes to a favorable position on the list than I could Dots, given the former’s popularity over the latter. 

As for Ash’s pick, he was certain he would go with some Reese’s option but found himself going back and forth between the M&M-style Reese's Pieces and the more traditional peanut butter chocolate cups. In the end, he ultimately went with the cups, citing that they're more filling in smaller quantities as opposed to the pieces, which he felt required him to eat more to achieve a similar level of satisfaction.


The candies in the top tier ranking for Halloween candy are Reese’s Pieces, Nerds, Mike & Ikes, specialty Tootsie Rolls, Milk Duds, Laffy Taffy, Starbursts, Twix and Jolly Ranchers.

As was predicted, Ash took a much better liking to Mike & Ikes than he did to Dots, so my move to include them as my pick for the favorites tier paid off.

One of the harder aspects of making this list was accounting for my peanut allergy. On top of having to debate each candy’s place on the list, in the name of fairness, I tried to frame my feelings toward the candidates through the perspective of being able to safely enjoy them all. And from that perspective, Reese’s Pieces are the bomb. Before I found out I was allergic, they were my go-to movie theater candy, just from their scrumptious peanut butter twist on the candy-shelled M&M formula.


The next tier down has Swedish Fish, Sour Patch Kids, Butterfingers, Lemonheads, Kit Kats, candy corn and Skittles.

This one was tricky. As someone who generally doesn’t really like sour candies, Sour Patch Kids are about my limit when it comes to that particular flavor profile. Even with their questionable inclusion, Swedish Fish are simply classics and fat-free to boot, so they took first in the A-tier category.

I know candy corn can be a touchy subject. Some people swear by it and go out of their way to have as much of it as possible when it’s available, while others find it repulsive. Although I wouldn’t say I’m a candy corn fanatic, I personally find it quite tasty (a sentiment thankfully shared by Ash) and at least try to have a small bag every October, the same way one might go out of their way to enjoy a candy cane around December.


As for the B-tier, the candies included were M&M's, Hershey’s Cookies and Cream Bars, 100 Grands, Airheads, Smarties, Peanut M&Ms, Crunch bars, Fruit Gushers, Tootsie Pops, Raisinets, Twizzlers, 3 Musketeers, Heath bars, Whoppers Malted Milk Balls, Almond Joys, Milky Ways, Hershey’s Milk Chocolates bars, Runts, Sweetarts and Baby Ruths.

The placement of Almond Joys and Raisinets in B-tier is a great example of that politics rant I’d gone on earlier. I personally would have rated them lower, but Ash had accommodated my love of Tootsie Pops, so I felt it was fair to be more lenient on some of his unshared favorites.


When it came to the next tier downward, Snickers, Werther’s Chewy Caramels, Tootsie Rolls, Blow Pops, Sugar Daddies, Hershey’s Kisses, Payday, Pixie Sticks, Ring Pops, Werther’s Hard Caramels, non-specific strawberry hard candy, Dubble Bubble bubble gum, Fun Dip and Warheads were all included.

The C-tier section is where we organized a particular subset of options we dubbed the “grandma candies.” This included Tootsie Rolls, both chewy and hard Werther’s, non-specific strawberry hard candy and Sugar Daddy caramels. 

Although these candies are all fine in their own right (at least, as fine as their position on the list would indicate), they do carry a certain reputation of maintaining a target audience who get weekly ShopRite coupons for raisin bran and prune juice in the mail.

Conversely, I’m convinced Warheads exist only for elementary school children to propose as a dare on the playground to their friends and are a blight on society as a whole.


The lowest tier of Halloween candy, the D-tier, contains apples, toothbrushes, York Peppermint Patties, Atomic Fireballs, Hot Tamales, Junior Mints and Good & Plenty.

Even though receiving fruit on Halloween is the scorn of any child, our logic was that getting an apple (or even a toothbrush for that matter) while trick-or-treating is at least an interesting story and implies the distributor had good intentions when deciding their Halloween handouts. 

At least, better intentions than the actual monsters who willingly chose to give away Junior Mints and Good & Plenties, anyway — that’s how you subtly tell kids you don’t want to see them at your door next year.

While certainly all candies have fans, some are simply more popular (for good reason!) on Halloween. Almost anyone would rather get Skittles than a toothbrush, but feel free to rank and debate your own candy preferences when deciding what to pick up this Halloween.

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