The Takeout's Fantasy Food Draft: Best Non-Chocolate Candy

Welcome, dear readers, to The Takeout Draft, our recurring feature that combines our love of food, fantasy sports, and arguing on Slack.

Every week, we will select a topic of conversation from the food and drink world. Takeout staffers will then field a team via the snake draft format. After five rounds, The Takeout commenteriat will vote on who they believe was victorious in that week's draft. At the end of the year, the staffer with the most weekly victories will select a charity of his/her choice that The Takeout will make a donation towards.

The winner of last week's Takeout Draft: Best Party Dip, as voted by readers: Kate Bernot!

This week, the topic is non-chocolate candy (we tackled chocolates in week three). The randomizer has selected a draft order:

1. Kate Bernot2. Kevin Pang3. Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Let's go!

Kate Bernot: The first-choice, first-round pick carries a grave weight, and I find myself conflicted. But I must snatch this before anyone else: Salted caramels

Regular caramels are good; I won't turn down a Werther's. But a soft, chewy, salt-flecked caramel is a thing of beauty.

Dominick Suzanne-Mayer: It's such a great combination of flavors that just about everything containing caramel has started using it.

Kevin Pang: Salted caramels never even entered my mind. I'm on a whole different plane of fruit-flavored candies, and in that realm you can't beat Skittles. They've got the chewiness thing going, but also the fruit flavors aren't meek. There's no tiptoeing when it comes to Skittles, it's a flat stomp on the palate.

KB: I find Skittles, if they've staled a bit, to be so chewy that they hurt my jaw.

Maybe I need to work on my chewing muscles.

KP: May I suggest Fluoride Skittles™

DSM: Skittles were also going to be my first-round pick, because they're delicious and because of their deeply bizarre commercials:

DSM: But since those are off the table, I'll kick things off with another chewy favorite: Swedish Fish.

If Skittles overpower you with sweetness, Swedish Fish make a gentle offering of it, and are all the better off for it.

These are one of the easiest candies to devour by the gross as well.

KP: Unpopular Opinion: I've never liked Swedish Fish. I'm not sure what flavor it's supposed to be. And they're always just a tad too chewy for my fragile grandpa teeth.

KB: What is the exact flavor of Swedish fish? I can never quite place them.

Stop reading my mind, Kevin.

DSM: I've always wondered the same. A really, really, really muted cherry, maybe?

KP: I will say this, if we're to accept important opinions: Takeout Candy Bureau Chief Marnie Shure would've chosen Swedish Fish for her first pick, FWIW.

DSM: And to swing the pendulum of sweetness all the way to the other end from there, I'll follow up with Lemonheads.

Here, I fully acknowledge where "too sweet" can enter into the equation for some, but I say nay. Suck on them long enough, and you go from the sour of the outer layer to a nice-tasting lemon candy inside.

KP: Dangit

DSM: 20-25 years ago, it seemed like every movie theater had these, and I'm regularly annoyed that most no longer do.

KP: It's magical when you stumble upon a sour Lemonhead

Too much of a crapshoot, though, as encountering a sugary Lemonhead is rather unpleasant.

Anyway, I am so glad that this has fallen to me, as I was certain it would've been off the board: Jolly Ranchers.

Here's my weird overthought theory on Jolly Ranchers, outside of the fact that they're delightful and delicious: Any candy that requires sucking the extract the flavor, something you have to put in effort for, yields greater satisfaction.

KB: Jolly Ranchers are another crapshoot for me. Some flavors are amazing, some too bracing.

KP: What flavors do you consider amazing and what flavors are bracing?

Green apples have got to be the best.

KB: Green apple is too tart for me! Watermelon rules.

DSM: I like the tart ones, but I'm inclined to agree with Kate here. Grape/watermelon are the ones best savored.

KP: Too tart?!

KB: Apparently I have both a weak jaw and sissy taste buds.

KP: Okay, I think this calls for a Takeout office vote.

KB: I'm very glad to see some of my favorites still up for grabs. For my next pick: Haribo Goldbears

My Oma buys these for me at Aldi in abnormal quantities because she thinks they're a German delicacy I can't find in my neck of the woods. I don't have the heart or stomach to correct her.

KP: There is something "fresher" about Haribo's gummy bears.

KB: I love the chew of these, and their easy-to-appreciate flavors.

For my third pick, the fruit candy to rule them all: Starburst


KB: Starburst flavors, ranked:

  1. Pink
  2. Yellow
  3. Orange
  4. Red

KP: Red is garbage

KB: Yes, red is trash, unequivocally.

KP: Well now that Starburst is off the board, I'm gonna have to go with Airheads, which is a perfect marriage of taffy and fruit candy. Like Skittles and Jolly Ranchers, there's nothing meek with the flavors—I'm partial to the grape and orange ones. I also think the packaging is rather sophisticated for a candy.

DSM: There really is a kind of satisfaction in peeling one like a banana, yeah.

KP: Totally extraneous packaging but they're fun to eat.

KB: I recall Airheads mystery flavor being a legitimate enigma in my school.

The subject of much gossip and conjecture.

KP: What I'm told is that the Mystery flavor is a castoff of all the extra leftover flavors

It's the Clearance Sale of flavors

DSM: This whole non-chocolate mandate got me thinking about candy bars without chocolate, and while there truly aren't many, there's still the peanut brittle-adjacent goodness of a Payday.

Curiously, even the Baby Ruth (the Nestle equivalent to Hershey's version) involves milk chocolate nougat, and is thus ineligible.

KB: Oooo, bold thinking, Dom. I didn't even consider Payday.

DSM: These, however, give you the salted caramel that Kate shouted out earlier, along with a pleasing crunch.

KB: Well now I want a Payday.

DSM: And for round four, it's time for the preferred candy of that dish on an end table right by your grandparents' front door: Werther's Originals.

KP: Interesting strategy, two caramel picks back-to-back...

KB: Crystal bowl for caramels or GTFO

DSM: I couldn't bring myself to leave either on the board, and with this one, you get a richer caramel that never gets overly sugary on the tongue.

KP: For my next pick I'm going a bit left field, but this was also a Sour Candy pick of Marnie Shure: Sour Patch Watermelon. I have decided that Sour Patch Kids too easily lodge into molars. The Watermelon variant, while still suffers from that texture, at least are markedly improved from "Kids" and therefore deserving on my list. I love that watermelon sweet with that sour powder.

KB: Plus you're not eating children-shaped candies, which is nice.

My fourth-round pick is one we've discussed on The Takeout recently: Red Vines

Movie-theater snack extraordinaire, and leagues more tasty than Twizzlers (fight me).

KP: Wouldn't it be an interesting strategy if Kate chose Twizzlers next? Like drafting Lowry-Leonard.


DSM: I feel like sides have to be picked on the Twizzlers/Red Vines debate, and at the risk of alienating audiences, I'm with Kate here.

KB: No way, Twizzlers aren't even close.

You can't like both Twizzlers and Red Vines

For my final pick, sort of a wacky choice but hey, I live dangerously: Pez

They're tasty on face, but they're also the rare candy with their own dispensing mechanism!

KP: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: Are we judging Pez on the merits of the candy alone or is the dispenser inextricable from the experience?

DSM: The Pez' emergence from the neck of your chosen dispenser is a key part of the whole thing for sure.

KB: If we commended Airheads packaging, I say we do the same for Pez.

KP: For my final pick: Pop Rocks! I can defend my choice in one sentence — They're still amazing, even as a grown-ass man.

DSM: There is no shame, at any age, in marveling at that popping/fizzing sensation.

KB: Confession: I still don't understand how Pop Rocks work.

KP: There's tiny CO2 gas bubbles inside each candy

Which is fucking amazing

Pop Rocks should be used to rim margaritas

DSM: Let's bring it home with the Everlasting Gobstopper, the candy that once inspired Slugworth to bribe a small child for trade secrets.

Is it more or less just a sugar lick? Yup. Is it bad for your teeth, especially if you liked to crack them layer-by-layer as I did for a long time? Absolutely. Are either of these things ultimately a deterrent? Not one bit.

KP: Do they not make it in that "20-sided die" shape anymore?

or is that clearly from the movie

DSM: No, that's from the movie, because I was disappointed when reality never delivered them in that molecular shape.

KB: Get on it, Wonka.

Who won? Please vote now!