Few foods elicit as candid and as heated of a response as Twizzlers. The red licorice-type candy (fun fact: no extracts of the licorice plant are actually found in Twizzlers) is the subject of many discussions across internet forums, and particularly among my family members and circles of friends. Those conversations rage anew each year at Halloween.
I’m here to take a stand for the Twizzler and argue that it might very well be the most versatile candy out there and, therefore, the top sweet Halloween treat available to the vast majority of celebrants. On my quest to figure out what exactly makes it my favorite, however, I am confronted with a barrage of commentary diametrically opposed to my own thinking. And it comes from my very own friends and family.
“You know I don’t like Twizzlers,” my husband, Perry, whose favorite treats include anything by Haribo and Chewy Spree, said after I asked for his opinion. “The candy game has evolved, stakes are a lot higher and there’s a lot more flavor in candy today. It’s time for Twizzlers and candy corn to go away.”
As much as I value Perry’s opinion on just about anything, I tend to ignore him when it comes to gastronomy. After all, we never seem to agree on what should whet our respective palates.
Knowing this, Perry redirected me to his good friend Sammy — a self-appointed candy connoisseur. (All friends chose to withhold their last names due to privacy amid candy controversy.)
“I hate Twizzlers,” Sammy told me. “The texture is funny, the taste is not satisfying and you get bloated after having just one.”
Sammy went even further, comparing Twizzlers to banana-flavored Runts.
“You finish every single other flavor in the box of Runts and, at the end, you are left with only banana,” he said matter-of-factly. “Because of the lack of options at that point, you might eat the bananas also. Same applies to Twizzlers: It is the last thing you would consider when choosing candy, but if it’s your only option, you might force yourself to have it.”
Many haters will argue that Twizzlers are especially bad when compared with all the other delicious candies that are available.
“In the modern age, there are much better candy options,” my friend Roxanne said. “Twizzlers are obsolete now! They have a weird texture, a weird taste, and the only thing going for them is the shape.”
And yet, even though many people describe their flavor as “chemical, especially the aftertaste” (“it’s literally pretend licorice,” a friend said to me), most agree that Twizzlers are sort of addicting.
“It’s like they have dopamine in them,” my pal Jasmine said. “It gets you hooked!”
That addiction, according to another friend of mine, Jamie, is actually entirely reliant on the candy’s drawback.
“I find that I continue eating something even if I don’t like it, because I don’t get satisfied so I need to eat more of it to get full,” she said during a conversation that landed us on Samin Nosrat’s “Salt Fat Acid Heat,” a book that argues just that.
“If the flavors aren’t balanced properly, you don’t get satisfied but keep eating to try to satisfy yourself with quantity instead of flavor,” Jasmine added. Her thoughts about Twizzlers specifically? “Authentic to neither licorice nor traditional candy.”
Sure, when looking at classic licorice, brands such as Darrell Lea stand out as better-tasting than Twizzlers. And yet, there is just something about the Twizzler that has made it the bestselling brand of licorice in the United States throughout history.
Twizzlers were first produced back in 1929 by Young and Smylie, a company founded in 1845 that is likely one of the oldest confectionery firms in the United States. The treats have been part and parcel of our snack world and candy aisles for decades. And shouldn’t that account for something? Shouldn’t we honor the history of Twizzlers by giving them a chance despite changes in the industry?
Perhaps what I like most about the candy is its anonymity — which my palate translates to versatility. Whether I’m watching a movie or driving on a road trip or browsing through my neighbors’ Halloween candy buckets, Twizzlers work as a sweet treat in just about any situation. They are easy to chew and won’t get you dirty, sweet enough to satisfy a sugar craving, but not potent enough to make you feel remorseful about the indulgence.
Sure, some people might argue that when indulging, one should go all out. “If I’m going to have something sweet, I should just have chocolate,” the thinking goes. And yet, have you ever been able to eat just a tiny bit of chocolate? One bite of the stuff inevitably leads to a second and then a third and then a fourth and then … an entire bar of chocolate. Twizzlers, on the other hand — whether it’s because of their slightly chemical aftertaste or because of its often-unappreciated texture — won’t necessarily lead to a sugar-infused endless cycle of gluttony. A few Twizzlers are enough Twizzlers.
Here’s a thought: Because they aren’t that good, Twizzlers are actually the very best candies out there.
Or, perhaps, a devotion to Twizzlers is about something slightly deeper.
“Twizzlers are nostalgic candies,” my friend Shanna said. “They remind me of the person I used to be when younger, back when Twizzlers were very popular.”
And just like that, Shanna has pointed out the very strength of the Twizzler and the probable reason it has stuck around all these years: It is part of who we are and the life we led until now.
Food does indeed have a way of sneaking into our memories and imprinting them with flavor. Smelling and tasting certain foods may take us back to a once-in-a-lifetime trip, a fun date or even to our parents’ kitchens. Twizzlers, born at a time when the candy aisle wasn’t as diversely populated as it is today, were the very first sweet treats that many people were able to easily indulge in — a characteristic that, as delicious as Trollis are, the brand simply can’t claim as its own.
And so this Halloween, consider adding a couple of Twizzlers to your stash. To you, they might be subpar candies, but to others, Twizzlers represent the freedom and lightheartedness that define youth.