Ari's Five Foods

Zzang! Candy Campaign Kicks Off January Promotion

I’m pretty convinced that Zzang! bars have essentially remade the way everyone around Zingerman’s (and a lot of our regular customers) think about candy bars. In the same way that Bakehouse rye and Farm breads and Creamery cream cheese (just to name some that come to my mind) have altered the way we think about those foods, I think the same thing is happening with Zzang! bars. We pay more for to eat these more traditional, more full flavored foods, but we’ve just come to accept them as the “norm” (I know, we’re spoiled).

Anyways, with that in mind . . . I’m on the campaign to get ever more folks of all ages, around and beyond Ann Arbor, to make the mental move to better candy in the same way everyone around here has done in the last couple years with so many other foods. I want to help people understand the difference in flavor between fresh candy and candy that can sit on the shelf for weeks. I also want to really get across what a big taste difference it makes when you’re willing to invest in the kinds of ingredients Charlie uses in the Zzang! bars. Really, a big commercial candy maker would never consider using ingredients like these. The flavor is, like, fifty nine times better than the stuff everyone is used to buying elsewhere.

Starting with the former—freshness—it’s not really new news in the food world in general; most everyone who eats well has long ago figured out the import of freshness with produce, roasted coffee, olive oil and a host of other things we eat and drink. Freshness counts for candy, too!

Obviously, not everything is better in its fresh state. Some foods are made to last—we’ve got a pretty fantastic wheel of two year old Comte cheese in the Deli right now that’s delicious. We’ve got balsamics that probably date back to before Emma Goldman ever left Lithuania (1885) or before the Nueskes went to Wittenberg, Wisconsin from their native Germany along with their family recipes for bacon and ham (1882). And of course there are loads of wines before they get sold, and dry cured hams at the deli that are aged for two or three years. But those are foods that are supposed to be aged before they’re at their best.

Candy bars are a different story—they don’t get better as they get older. Charlie started saying it like six years ago. The flavors are simply livelier and more lustrous and just better when the candy is fresh from the manufactory. It’s not like the bars are going to be spoiled in six months, but they aren’t as goo. Over time the sugars break down; the flavors blur. Commercial bars avoid this problem by loading up on ingredients that keep them as is for, literally, years.

Then there are the better ingredients. You can’t make great candy out of mediocre raw materials. Better chocolate, better nuts, honey, sea salt, etc. Handmade cashew brittle, handmade nougats. Literally everything in each bar is better. And again, you really can taste the difference.

With all that in mind, the truth is that I think we’re all sort of spoiled around here—living near the Candy Manufactory is like having a really good local bakery, while most of the rest of the world is still making do with Wonder Bread. That’s starting to change as the Zzang bars make their way into so many other stores around the country.

While I’m on the subject, let me just say out loud that there’s no question that these bars—like our bread or Neal’s Yard Dairy cheeses or whatever else—cost more. If you use good stuff and make ‘em by hand it’s safe to say that they’re gonna have a higher price than all that commercial candy that everyone’s been accustomed to for so long now. But hey, there was candy before there were big factories. And now, thanks to Charlie (and Sara and Freddy and Amy and Frank everyone else involved) there’s candy after big factories. Those of us in Ann Arbor and folks near a Zzang! retailer (or, really, anyone with an internet connection since they’re available Zingerman’s Mail Order) no longer have to settle.