Ashley Garza recalls her teenage years in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas, when she ate commercial gummy bears in raspberries, a dessert with shaved ice cream and as dulces enchilados, a Mexican-American snack of chamoy and chili-coated candies. “When I went to high school, people sold small Ziploc bags of rubber bears with chamoy,” she said.
Ms. Garza, 30, was a grocer at the start of the pandemic, but in the face of rising bills, she started a candy company called Texas Chile Dulceria with her boyfriend, Adrian Martinez, 28. He hand-mixes candy, which includes sweet bears and mouth-watering sour belts. Each batch starts with a generous splash of chamoy, followed by a generous burst of sour chili spice.
Elizabeth Schmitt, 37, a self-proclaimed rubber fanatic, owns the candy company Ruby Bond in Atlanta. “Gummy candy is so nostalgic,” she said. “It reminds me of simpler times.”
She puts different shapes on acrylic trays to make candy “charcuterie”. In one of her most popular arrangements, bears are squeezed together with an ombre rainbow of stars, butterflies and other feathery creatures.
She has an abundance of choices: oozy jelly-filled forms, super-sour chews, and frothy, marshmallow-like creations. She leans towards the softer varieties with vibrant colors.
“Not all rubber candies are created equal,” she said.
Innovative candy stores across the country and online are treasure chests for more extreme things, from a bear weighing about five pounds to a fiery spicy counterpart that reaches nine million units on the Scoville scale.
Jessica Stevenson, 34, owns a candy store called Hello, Sweets with her husband, Tyler, in Tonawanda, NY. The couple sometimes post videos of their favorite sweets on social media, prompting intense debates in the comments section on topics like the benefits of a strict chew versus a supple one.