HOW SWEET IT IS
Candy can be so much more than what you see on the shelves of a big-box store. Smaller companies you may have never heard of are churning out everything from homespun treats made with decades-old recipes to jaw-dropping artisanal creations that are almost too gorgeous to eat. Whether you have the golden ticket-opportunity to visit their shops or plan to order the sweets online, we've tracked down specialty candymakers across the country that are bound to keep you coming back for more.
STICK WITH ME
New York City
This Manhattan shop is filled with some of the most dazzling bon bons we've ever seen. The individually polished treats take three days to create with ingredients sourced both locally and globally. Online offerings are limited to bon bons and caramels, but truffles, mini candy bars and other treats are coming soon.
Don't miss: Grab a 12-piece box of bon bons and fill it with flavors you never saw coming, like black sesame and mango, or speculoos s'more.
Family-run Muth's is a longtime Kentucky favorite, with recipes handed down to now-third and fourth-generation candymakers. Specialties here include local treats like bourbon balls and Modjeskas, which are marshmallows dipped in caramel.
Don't miss: The fluffy Modjeskas, made with a butter and cream caramel, are a must. You can also get them dipped in dark or milk chocolate for an extra layer of decadence.
For a small company, Askinosie has attracted some big-time press, with mentions everywhere from The New York Times to Bon Appétit. Started by a disillusioned lawyer, this chocolate maker prides itself on churning out bean-to-bar products in the most eco-friendly, socially responsible way possible.
Don't miss: The Mababu bar is 72 percent single-origin dark chocolate sourced from farmers in Mababu, Tanzania. True connoisseurs might detect notes of berries and graham in this gluten-free, vegan, kosher-friendly treat.
At this much-lauded French Quarter candy shop, the pralines are a must. Southern Candymakers makes them fresh daily, along with other specialties including tortues (turtles), English toffee, peanut brittle and fudge. You can also buy chocolates that pay homage to the Big Easy, including gators and fleurs-de-lis.
Don't miss: After you indulge in the pralines, nosh on a lesser-known Southern treat: soft, pillowy divinity, made with egg whites, sugar, pecans and vanilla.
Kansas City, Missouri
Christopher Elbow, who's worked with noted chefs including Emeril Lagasse and Jean Joho, turns out chocolates that look like miniature works of art. They include glossy, colorful bon bons and geometric caramels. Also on offer: everything from gourmet hot cocoa to chocolate toffee and chocolate-covered nuts.
Don't miss: Select a 16-piece assortment and sample everything from strawberry balsamic caramels to pistachio bergamot ganache.
Esther Price, a Dayton mainstay since 1926, is the epitome of a beloved local company that has amassed a following not with flashy treats, but consistently good candy. It's not a holiday party without one of Esther Price's signature gold boxes filled with butter creams, caramels, chocolate-covered cherries and other favorites.
Don't miss: The chocolate-covered potato chips are a must for anyone who loves salty-sweet combos. They're made with crispy Mikesell's potato chips, another local favorite.
This boutique chocolaterie has made a big splash with its clean, geometric confections, attracting the attention of Martha Stewart Living, Forbes and other big names. The sleekly packaged dragees, bon bons and chocolate bars are ideal for any design lover with a sweet tooth.
Don't miss: The Hazelnut Praline bar, a gold winner at the 2016 International Chocolate Salon in five categories, is made with 70 percent single-origin dark chocolate and roasted, caramelized hazelnuts.
ENSTROM TOFFEE & CONFECTIONERY
Grand Junction, Colorado
Founded in 1960 by an ice-cream maker with a flair for candy, Enstrom is a fourth-generation family business known far and wide for its almond toffee, handmade in small batches and shipped all over the world to eager recipients. The company also makes gourmet chocolates, popcorn and truffles.
Don't miss: The buttery Almond Toffee Petites, covered in milk or dark chocolate and a sprinkling of crushed almonds, inspire superlative-happy reviewers who call them "nirvana" and "bliss."
Vosges founder Katrina Markoff trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and used subsequent world travels to influence creations that have racked up accolades from the likes of Bon Appetit, Food & Wine and National Geographic. Though it churns out plenty of high-end truffles and exotic chocolate bars, Vosges also makes old-fashioned favorites like toffee and caramel marshmallows.
Don't miss: Limited-edition Ruby Truffles are made with fruity, creamy, naturally pink Ruby cacao, sourced from Ecuador, Brazil and the Ivory Coast. Vosges is one of the only places in the U.S. where customers can sample it.
This longtime Milwaukee favorite has the most modest of roots, first selling just two products during the Depression: caramel corn and potato chips. The business gradually sought to bolster sales with candy, and the rest is history. Today, specialties include chocolate-covered caramels, nonpareils, candied orange peels and mint meltaways.
Don't miss: Angel food isn't cake here – it's a sponge candy covered with a generous layer of either homemade milk or dark chocolate.
BON BON BON
Bon Bon Bon fuses French candy making techniques "with a little Detroit ingenuity, a lot of local ingredients and some artistic interpretation." The result is a slew of whimsical treats that include Fruity Pebble-infused white chocolate bon bons and dark chocolate discs that look like records.
Don't miss: The seasonal bon bons include Polar Vortex, made with marshmallow fluff and coconut donut ganache, and Nog, featuring a decadent whiskey caramel and nutmeg caramel ganache.
This tiny shop in an equally tiny Wyoming town is run by Tim Kellogg, a cowboy – yes, really – who began selling treats to pay for a new saddle. The novelty of his business' roots lassoed him a profile in The New York Times, among other press coverage. Now Meeteetse is making candy in an admirably eco-friendly way, producing just one garbage bag of waste every week.
Don't miss: The Western Skies truffle pack is the best way to "taste" the local landscape, featuring sage, huckleberry, prickly pear and Wyoming whiskey flavors.
KATE WEISER CHOCOLATE
Kate Weiser landed a spot on Oprah's "Favorite Things" list with its adorable hot cocoa snowman, Carl, but this small company is best known for its hand-painted bon bons, each of which takes six days to make. Other treats include high-end candy bars, chocolate-covered nuts, and – mmmmmm – bacon toffee enhanced with dark chocolate and sea salt.
Don't miss: Sample bon bons as diverse as Buttery Popcorn, Hazelnut Latte, and Lavender Apricot in a build-a-box sampler.
YE OLDE PEPPER COMPANIE
To say family tradition is a theme at Ye Olde Pepper Companie would be an understatement. It claims to be America's oldest candy company, circa 1806, and is on its fourth generation of candymakers. Signature items including Gibralters, a hard candy made with lemon or peppermint. You'll also find fudge, saltwater taffy, and plenty of other treats.
Don't miss: Black Jacks, handmade the same way since around 1830, are black-strap molasses sticks that pack a punch. Too strong? Indulge in some of the Snickers fudge instead.
CHOCOLAT BY ADAM TURONI
You don't just buy chocolates from this Savannah chocolatier, you experience them. One of his two shops is set up like a dining room, the other like a library. Customers can even join a "Book Club" to be sent from 10 to 24 truffles packaged in vintage-style book boxes once a month.
Don't miss: The award-winning Honeycomb Filled Chocolat Bars are 72 percent dark chocolate with a very local filling: pure raw wildflower honeycomb from the Savannah Bee Company.
IDAHO CANDY COMPANY
At the turn of the century, T.O. Smith began selling candy door to door from shoe boxes, humble beginnings that eventually led to the Idaho Candy Company factory still in operation (it even still uses some of the original equipment). It churns out candy bars, butter toffee, and old-fashioned treats like peanut clusters and Horehound Lumps that "taste a lot like a cough drop — they are not for sissies."
Don't miss: The eponymous potato-shaped Idaho Spud Bar was first manufactured here in 1918. No, there's no actual potato — just a chewy marshmallow center covered with dark chocolate and coconut.
KREUTHER HANDCRAFTED CHOCOLATE
New York City
You'd expect nothing less than top-notch, art-like chocolates from the two chefs behind Kreuther, both veterans of the Museum of Modern Art's fine-dining restaurant, The Modern. And while the fine chocolates are indeed gorgeous, Kreuther's also features toffee, caramels, dragees, macarons, hazelnut chunks and other more traditional treats.
Don't miss: Upgrade your Nestle's Crunch habit with a box of Krunchy Krispy treats, bite-sized chunks of candied almonds, rice cereal and either milk or dark caramel chocolate.
MOONSTRUCK CHOCOLATE COMPANY
Portland's much-loved Moonstruck Chocolate Company has grown to encompass five locations and a thriving mail-order business, but its local roots are still apparent with treats like the Rose City Bark Bar and dark chocolate tumbled blueberries that were harvested nearby. The intricate truffles in classic flavors like French silk and raspberry liqueur might be the biggest draw, however.
Don't miss: The hand-poured and hand-decorated Dark Chocolate Raspberry and Fennel Bark Bar is a crunchy work of art.
All it took was a visit to Paris decades ago to inspire Fran Bigelow to open her first chocolate shop in 1982. Today, her chocolates are sold at five boutiques and specialty shops across the country, and Fran's has gotten shout-outs from Ina Garten, Epicurious, Food & Wine and more.
Don't miss: The shop's most well-known confections include boxes of rich caramels covered in milk or dark chocolate and topped with gray or smoked salt. They're even earned some presidential raves.
ZOE'S CHOCOLATE COMPANY
The third-generation chocolatiers behind Zoe's have found big-time recognition since opening their first shop in Pennsylvania in 2007, and their high-brow treats have landed in stores including Whole Foods and Dean and Deluca. The dazzling chocolate bars are as fun to look at as they are to taste, and include whimsical choices like toasted cinnamon, potato chip, and coconut bacon.
Don't miss: Zoe's Signature Collection of chocolates pays homage to the family's Mediterranean roots with flavors like wild mint, pomegranate, baklava, and Greek Isle spice.
Recently restored Shane's Confectionery oozes history, with ornate blue shelves, gleaming candy-filled jars, intricate white molding, and cash registers that look like they should be in a museum. That's for good reason: Candy has been made on site here since 1863, and the candy store opened in 1911. Specialties include mixed chocolates and caramels, fudge, nonpareils, sugared fruit slices, and all-natural jelly beans.
Don't miss: Who could resist brandy-soaked cherries that have been double dipped in dark chocolate, or soft licorice rock creams with colorful fondant centers?
Opened by a husband-and-wife team in 1997, Recchiuti proudly makes indulgent artisanal chocolate truffles, caramels, chocolate bars and more using European techniques. Shoppers at its two Bay Area stores are lucky enough to have their pick of impossibly elegant handmade chocolates, but also exclusive in-store treats like hazelnut whoopie cakes.
Don't miss: If you order far enough in advance, you can even get delicate truffles you're your own custom artwork on the top.
Westwood, New Jersey
Founded in 1928, Conrad's Candy is still making chocolates and micro-batch ice cream the old-fashioned way. One of New Jersey's oldest businesses, it even churns out hand-pulled candy canes at Christmas, and its hand-decorated chocolate bunnies found fame during a visit from Martha Stewart.
Don't miss: The bunnies aren't the only adorable molded chocolates in the store — you can also bite into milk chocolate treats like bulldogs, cameras, dollar bills, baseball mitts.
Apple Valley, Minnesota
Founded in 1909, this fourth-generation family business has survived the Great Depression, World War II rationing, and even an explosion that leveled the shop in the 1960s. Today, it's best known for homespun favorites like marshmallow squares, peanut butter cups, cream caramels, cherry cordials and English toffee.
Don't miss: The extensive selection of wrapped caramels includes classic treats like sea salt and vanilla, plus less-expected flavors like apple and licorice.
The founder of family-owned Glacier Confection has been billed as "Oklahoma's very own Willy Wonka," and it's not hard to see why: The cases are filled with dazzlingly decadent and colorful handmade treats in a dizzying number of flavors. They've even got special collections for cocktail- and coffee-lovers, plus about a dozen vegan-friendly options.
Don't miss: White chocolate fans will have their pick from some of Glacier's most colorful and exotic confections, including Watermelon Feta, Creamsicle, and American Apple Pie bon bons.