May 18, 2016
Presidential races can be a contentious and, let's be honest, pretty sour process for a lot of people. Caricatured as they are, the candidates drop away one by one, and as the months press on, those who remain tend to polarize friends, families and colleagues until the dust has finally settled in November.
That's part of the genius behind Philadelphia-based Candidate Candy, launched Wednesday by Mitt Coats and Samantha Gutièrrez, a local couple who decided to sweeten up the election season with goodies and games.
"This whole thing started because Samantha and I were working on an unrelated startup," says Coats, a medical student at the University of Pennsylvania. "I had been working on a software engineering project, learning to code, and we had a friend staying with us while working hospital rotations. He would come home every day and load up our fridge with candy, so we started talking, lampooning candidates, and we came up with this idea to develop presidential candies."
Coats and Gutièrrez, a recent Temple Law grad, quickly formulated a strategy. Coats would develop the website and Gutièrrez who specializes in branding and intellectual property, would create the candy lines.
"Our mission is to lampoon political candidates, deliver delicious, diverting candies to those suffering from sour campaigns, and highlight fundamental truths that guarantee life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," says a statement at their new website. "We do all of this by making parodies of popular, low-quality candy brands and likening them to popular, low-quality political ideas."
So how would your Halloween bag look if you stopped by their headquarters? You'd have your Clint Kats for Kit Kats, your Baby Rubios for Baby Ruths, Bernie Bears for gummy bears, and Mitt Duds for Milk Duds. Yeah, Romney's not in the race, but that's still gold.
Even Coats and Gutièrrez, who have been married for three years, go by alter egos: Ritter Miller is Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Sweets and Cinnamon Sammy serves as director of the Candy Intelligence Agency.
"One of the really fun parts about doing this was sourcing candy and supplies from all around the country, with a focus on the Philadelphia metro area," Coats explained. "We got to test everything out. Our Trumpy Taffies come from Atlantic City, the Clint Cats come from Zwahlen's in Valley Forge, the Treasures come from Lore's in Philly, and our tins and shipping boxes come from Pennsylvania and New Jersey."
The company also runs social media campaigns to support various causes. "Candidate Kids" calls on parents to have their children finish the sentence, "If I were president, I would..." and for every submission, a dollar is donated to St. Judes Hospital. For each new follower, 25 cents will be donated to the Wounded Warrior Project as part of the "Candidate Clicks" campaign.
Given the satirical nature of the company, one might expect the candy to be cheap and junky, but there's a reason the prices are set at the higher end.
"We really wanted to provide gourmet candy," Coats said. "We feel like we picked the most addictive, high-quality confectioners in the country. That's the feedback we've gotten from our first orders. People feel like they're getting great value."
Coats and Gutièrrez, originally from Utah and Texas, respectively, believe their products are a perfect way to diffuse tension among political rivals. They're hoping they catch on as corporate gifts and friendly jabs exchanged among rivals.
"In the future, we think we can expand to some new political figures and even introduce lines that celebrate Philadelphia history," Coats said.
We've already submitted a request for a Chris Christie-themed candy. Maybe Christie Stix for Pixie Stixs?
You can check out Candidate Candy's online store here.