Is it healthy? "It's the gaming community," Mullin shrugs. "Who's healthy in the gaming community? It's healthier than Domino's Pizza or Fritos or Cheetos."

At last: a product with no redeeming value aside from the simple pleasure of eating it!

And then Mullin has to go and spoil the moment.

Professor Sauernoggin works the Toxic Waste Candy booth at the recent Sweets & Snacks Expo at McCormick Place in Chicago.
William Rice
Professor Sauernoggin works the Toxic Waste Candy booth at the recent Sweets & Snacks Expo at McCormick Place in Chicago.
Jill Robbins developed HomeFree cookies so that her son, who has multiple food allergies, would be able to enjoy snacks with his friends.
William Rice
Jill Robbins developed HomeFree cookies so that her son, who has multiple food allergies, would be able to enjoy snacks with his friends.

"It contains a vitamin for fast thinking!" he says. "A very well-known lab developed the vitamin mix that improves cognitive functions. On our website there are 35 scientific papers that support the science."


Air Contains Zero Calories

How hard it must be to make people happy! Even the giants seem to be feeling the pressure. Hershey's, which occupies one of the largest and most ostentatious of Expo booths, has resorted to pumping out onto the convention floor the smell of chocolate cupcakes being baked. There are no chocolate cupcakes being baked, of course, but it's a fair approximation of the smell, if faintly chemical. Inside the booth smiling marketing girls give away actual chocolate cupcakes covered in white frosting, which conventioneers can accessorize with the Hershey's products of their choice.

This Wonka-worthy wonderland has been erected to promote Hershey's newest bar: the Air Delight. The company has plastered ads for its chocolate debutante all over Sweets & Snacks Expo literature, touting how much "lighter" it is than the old-school Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bar.

That's because it's filled with air bubbles that occupy tiny plots of real estate, whereas its heftier sibling contains, well, chocolate. All those bubbles amount to precisely ten fewer calories and one less gram of fat than Hershey's mainstay. And truth be told, the Air Delight is a blatant rip-off of competitor Nestle's Aero.

No matter. Because like everyone else, Hershey's is trying. They need to.

"It's a perpetual American story," notes Candyfreak memoirist Steve Almond. "To me there's a kind of poignancy to it: They're marketing to people who want to make a bad deal. That's what Americans do. 'Have a Coke and a smile!' 'Snickers really satisfies!' If it's in Whole Foods, it's gotta be healthy!"

But if the candy's good for you, if it eases your insomnia or abates your cirrhosis or ensures that your third-grader can eat cookies and nut-butter cups at lunch just like all the other kids; or if the candy's good for the world, if it helps fund breast-cancer research or feeds homeless kids or hastens the salvation of a lost soul or two — then how bad a deal can it possibly be? To hell with Joy Bauer and her 10 percent allotment!

"Here's a dirty secret," says Almond. "We know we're eating candy. We want to be eating candy."

It's just that some people need more of a nudge than others.

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