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It’s the end of February.  Kitchen cupboards everywhere contain discarded Valentine’s Day bags of overfished-sugar sadness.  I paw through the empty wrappers to find a bite-size Snickers.  Alas, it’s finally time to admit all good candy is gone. Should I throw in the garbage? Should I just suck it up and eat a stale conversation heart?  I then begin contemplating the humane disposal of a carbohydrate that no one wants to masticate. (No need to look it up, it’s the only word that rhymes with carbohydrate that means “chew”.)  In my first attempt at a “Did you know facts about food” I explored the question “What can you do with unsold, uneaten, or reject candy?”

1. Feed it to Cows

Ice cream sprinkles, Skittles missing the “S”, and truckloads of gummy worms are making their appearance in cattle feed bunks across the US.  As corn prices exploded over the past few years, producers looked for alternative means to meet the caloric demands of our favorite beefy buddies.  What’s all this sugar going to do to your steak? Not a thing!  

Cows are “ruminants” and have multiple stomach compartments.  The sugars can be easily broken down by the bacteria in their gut.  What’s even better? When they chew their “cud” or partially digested food, a second time, they can enjoy that expired candy twice as much as their human counterparts.  Who knew cows had a sweet tooth too? 

A cow looks directly at the viewer.  She has a white face, brown eyes and pink nose.  Her hide is black and so are her ears.  There is a yellow fly tag in her right ear.  She appears to be standing in the middle of a pasture.  She also looks to have a surprised expression.
Did someone say “Candy?!”

2. Burn It

Actually, the gas produced by bacteria on sugar high is burned. It’s being used to create energy to run a Nestle chocolate factory.  This is Nestle’s attempt to create a “zero waste” factory. The leftover candy bits are mixed with other factory waste to create a yummy “Chocolate Soup”. This concoction is fed to hungry but flatulent micro-lifeforms.  It brings a whole new meaning to the description “gas-powered”.    

Factories aren’t the only ones on sugar-highs.  Turns out that cars can run on chocolate sludge too.  Scientists in Great Britain were able to power a Ford truck for a 4,000 mile journey to Timbuktu.  In 2009, another group build a formula 3 race car that could run on chocolate and vegetable oil.  

3. Re-Sell It with a Catchy Slogan

Jelly Belly wins the category for “Most Marketable Pun”.  Jelly-Belly jelly beans that are misshapen or weirdly colored are repackaged and sold as “Belly Flops” for a fraction of the price.  Just close your eyes and you’ll never know that the delicious popcorn-flavored jelly bean you are eating is the shape of Florida.

What’s one of the more common “Belly Flops”?  Multiple bean bundles! While birds of a feather stick together, beans that double are in for trouble.  During the candy-making process, some of the jelly beans will bond together. This is a big “no-no” in quality control.  How do you make millions out of mishaps? Box up the bumbled beans and ship them to discount dealers!

4. Turn It Into a Tour Stop

Russell Stover invites interested customers to tour their plant in Abilene, Kansas.  The highlight of the excursion is the “Back Room”. One TripAdvisor review labeled “Chocolate Heaven”, raves that they sell “mistakes and candy from previous holidays, for as much as 75% off!!”  The idea is pretty ingenious as the audience is completely captive. It’s just like walking through the Disney souvenir shop at the exit of  Pirates of the Caribbean. With low prices and readily available samples, who wouldn’t pick up a box of reject caramels?!

The field of vision contains nine serving trays of candy.  They all appears to be some sort of tummy.  there are gummy worms, gummy bears, gummy teeth, and sours.  Yellow tongs sit atop the candy.
Candy buffet anyone?

5.  Convert it to Cannibal Candy

Everyone loves the crispy Kit Kat and its chocolatey filling nestled between each layer of wafer.  What most people don’t know is that that sinfully sweet stuffing is actually the crushed and creamed Kit Kats that didn’t make the cut.  During a British 2015 food documentary, line workers revealed that the “chocolayer” is “re-worked” Kit Kats that were broken, had uneven stamping, or were malformed.  The story sparked international controversy as two different companies produce the Kit Kat bar; Nestle in the UK and Hersey’s in the US. Was the UK company short-changing it’s European market while the US was creating filling from virgin chocolate materials?  FYI, Nestle still calls the shots for Kit Kat recipes as it licenses the brand name to Hersey’s. Therefore, it’s likely that your delicious Kit Kat is made up of some of its underperforming ground up cousins

6.  UpCycle It (At Least the Wrapper Anyway)

The news that China has been dumping US trash destined for an unavailable recycling facility has been haunting eco-conscious consumers.  Many plastics, such as the bottles that hold your favorite cola, are easily recyclable. The tiny squares that encapsulate your candies? Not so much.  Companies, looking to capitalize on the unwanted paper waste are offering through-the-mail zero-waste recycling programs. Go online, order a box, and send off your wrappers! Companies like TerraCycle will ship you a small recycling box for around $86.

You may be asking, “What else can be done with those pesky papers that float around the bottom of your purse?”  What about color-coordinating and folding them so that they can be woven into a handbag? Youtube “Upcycled Candy Wrappers” and you’ll have hours of videos to keep you busy making laptop covers, just in time for the gift-giving holiday season!  Don’t have the time to create a flat bottom carry-all out of M&M share size bags? Don’t worry because the crafters over on Etsy have you covered. A tote made of candy wrappers will only put you back $70! 

7. Sell It to the Salvage Industry

Stores, looking to offload nearly or recently expired goods, will often ship their unsold products to “Reclamation Centers.”  At these warehouses, it is processed to ensure that it’s still safe to eat. Then it’s donated or sold into the “salvage industry”.  This is just a fancy name for the local “Ding and Dent Store” in your neighborhood.  

Customers, who are willing to overlook damaged packages or “Best If Used By” dates can find themselves with a product that is over 50% off the retail price in large grocery chains.  The FDA, noticing the growth in these types of grocery stores, has even put forth guidance in helping customers determine how to buy safe salvaged foods. What are the helpful tips the FDA suggests?

  • Never buy anything with ripped packaging
  • If something has leaked out of the packaging, it means that bacteria can get in
  • Check with the local Health Department to see if there have been any complaints against the store

8.  Donate It to Someone Who Needs It More than You

How many mini-snickers does one person actually need?  Join retailers and suppliers across the country to donate post-holiday candy to those who will appreciate it.  Operation Gratitude runs the “Treats for Troops” program. Those with surpluses of sugar can send it to currently deployed troops. Soldiers’ Angel’s “Treats for Troops” makes care packages for those overseas. They even deliver it to those being treated at VA hospitals.

Two hands hold foil covered chocolates.  The hands are Caucasian.  The chocolates are shaped like gold starts, lady bugs, and hearts.  The stars are gold, the hearts are red, and the lady bugs are black, red, and white.
‘Tis better to give than to receive”

9. Hide It in the Freezer

There’s a way to make your candy buzz last all year; store it in the freezer!  Unopened candy bars remain fresh in the deep freeze for up to 12 months. This means that months after the expiration date, it’s possible to pop open a package of Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkins and relish the salty/sweet goodness of long ago trick-or-treat stashes.  

10. Put It on CLEARANCE!!!

Candy, like many other perishable foods, has expiration dates.  For good reason too. Did you know that milk chocolate that has long since passed its heyday can spoil?   This is especially true for those boxes of chocolates with cream centers. How do you tell if your Russell-Stovers is rancid?  The folks at www.stilltasty.com have given us some advice. First, smell the candy bar. If the aroma is weird, don’t eat it. The same goes for appearance. Another gross fact; it’s possible for chocolate to grow mold. For this reason, some stores just decide to throw it out.  However, in a last-ditch attempt to keep from throwing money in the garbage, retailers will throw out some crazy candy sales to eradicate any leftover holiday treats.   

Interestingly, it’s not illegal to sell expired candy.  In fact, most states have laws that only forbid the sale of expired baby food and baby formula.  Many candies have a “Best By” date which infers that that quality, not the safety of the product, will begin to deteriorate.  In order to be able to hold onto products for longer, stores have begun to go away from holiday-specific packaging towards a “seasonal” design.  Instead of orange and black Halloween Snickers wrappers, customers may find a fall color array of oranges, browns, and yellows. 

Did you like “Did You Know Facts about Food?”

Thank you for reading my “Did You Know Facts about Food: Holiday Candy” article. Did you enjoy it? Would you like more of this type of writing? Let me know in the comments!

If you would like to read how your food is produced? You can read about our family farm here.