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The Sweet Rise of Gummy Candy

Gummies grow up.

Over the past decade or so, various sweets have had their moment in the spotlight. Cupcakes, doughnuts, ice cream—all have shone, and been reimagined as gluten-free, vegan, and camera-ready. It’s not kids reaching for the London fog doughnut or greedily licking the salted caramel ice cream atop an artisanal waffle cone, however. It’s us—adults. Good-looking treats with grown-up flavours have dissolved the stigma of immaturity from childhood confections. The latest rising star is candy. Gummy candy, to be precise.

I admit, this trend first struck me as odd. Are new-wave gummies intended to be dessert, a snack, a way to self-bribe when completing mundane office tasks? People are buying candy—it seems candy stores have popped up all over the place—but how are they eating it?

What better break from the daily grind than to spend a few minutes deliberating over whether to select Sour Skulls, Green Frogs, or Mini Fried Eggs.

Karameller, a cute candy store in Vancouver’s Yaletown neighbourhood, was my first stop to get to the bottom of my candy queries. The diminutive shop boasts an entire wall of clear vitrines filled with colourful, high-fructose corn syrup-free candies which customers can pick and mix at their leisure. How satisfying to scoop out an array of sugar-coated Sour Lips and tiny, detailed, squishy Cola Bottles, pouring them by the dozen into a white paper bag. Doing so incites glee, like that of a kid in a—well, you know.

Twenty-something professionals filtered through the shop during my morning visit, surprising owner Louise Schönberg, who typically sees an afternoon rush of people in the throes of their daily sugar crash. It seemed to me, though, that the craving wasn’t merely for the candy, but for the thrill of shopping for candy. What better break from the daily grind than to spend a few minutes deliberating over whether to select Sour Skulls, Green Frogs, or Mini Fried Eggs. My favourite turned out to be the Half & Half: a Toonie-sized disc, half raspberry and half black liquorice, coated in sour sugar—Schönberg suggested I suck the sugar off, then chew the sweet to mix its flavours. She can also recommend candies to combine in one mouthful for maximum flavour, proving that eating the candy is as much an art as shopping for it.

Sweet scoopfulls from Karameller. Photo: Karameller.

While Karameller offers its customers the ability to handpick their sweets, other candy stores have opted for a different approach. Squish, which opened in Montreal in 2014 and now has expanded across the country, specializes in, yes, squishy candy. The candies come prepackaged one type to a bag, as a method of highlighting and preserving the gourmet-quality ingredients. While I explored their flavours (think cocktail-inspired, like Bourbon Cubes and Prosecco Bears, and tea-infused, like the Chai High), a man in a suit stopped in for a couple bags of Strawberry Rhubarb gummies for “some ladies in the office” and a soft-spoken middle-aged woman inquired about fish-shaped candy for a themed party. I left loaded down with sour gummies of all shapes and colours to enjoy with a glass of wine and a movie later that night.

Sugarfina, which opened its first Canadian standalone shop in Burnaby’s Metrotown mall last year, takes a similar approach to Squish, stocking chic little cubes of candy customers may combine into “bento boxes”. Keenly trendy, the Los Angeles-based luxury candy boutique recently launched the world’s first green juice gummy bear, made with spinach, apple, lemon, ginger, and spirulina. While the gummies taste delicious, they’re not any healthier than the average bear, so to speak. Vancouver-based company Smart Sweets, however, has successfully made a gummy bear you can feel good about—their candies contain 3 grams of sugar per bag, a drastic departure from the standard 25 grams.

I was starting to get it. Candy looks good, tastes good, and it’s just fun—fun to shop for, fun to eat, fun to share. Is this what accounts for the candy trend? I asked Boom, an online gourmet gummy retailer based out of Toronto, what they think has caused grownups to go ga-ga over gummies. With no retail location but a booming online business, they’re proof that candy is far more than an impulse buy. The verdict? A combination of social media food culture and the millennial obsession with nostalgia has created the perfect platform for a gummy candy revival. Sweet.


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