Sweet profit from candy inspired by Idaho potatoes

Even the maker of the Idaho Spud candy bar thinks it’s a little weird. But the chocolate-covered, potato-shaped Spud sells at a rate of three million bars a year.

“It’s amazing; I’m not sure who eats them all, or if they all get eaten for that matter,” said David Wagers, president of Idaho Candy.

No, the Spud doesn’t have potato in it, though it plays off the popularity of the state’s signature crop. It has coconut, maple, vanilla, cocoa that gives it its grayish colour, and agar, a seaweed harvested in Morocco and Japan that has been an ingredient from the beginning.

It’s thought the Idaho Spud got its start around 1901, when Idaho Candy came into being.
The company’s records don’t start until 1918, when Idaho Candy was making more than 50 different candy bars for the regional market.

Wagers’ family bought the company 21 years ago. Now it makes about 30 items, such as butter toffee and a peanut-filled Old Faithful candy bar, in the original factory. There, at a leisurely pace, hair-netted workers run turn-of-the-century machines with plenty of time to hand out gumdrops to passing visitors.

The design of the label hasn’t ever changed, which adds to the Spud’s nostalgic appeal. But beyond that, Idahoans seem drawn to anything that evokes potatoes, once a staple of their economic diet.

“It’s what we’re known for,” said Louis Aaron, a chef who has trademarked the Idaho Ice Cream Potato, a potato-shaped ice cream dessert that’s shipped to restaurants around the West and, Aaron says, was once served to the previous president Bush.

The Spud is perhaps the most widely known of Idaho Candy’s creations, and it’s certainly the most peculiar. It has a mild maple flavor and a vaguely disquieting texture that Wagers describes as “a grained marshmallow”.

The Spud is made in a noisy, bus-length machine that uses molds made of corn starch to form full-size Spuds and a miniature version called Spud Bites. The Spuds come out of the machine pale and dusted in starch; they’re later moved downstairs to be coated in chocolate.

Wagers’ family sometimes make a Spud fondue, and he’s put a few recipes for desserts such as Idaho Spud Mousse on the company’s website. At Halloween, he and his wife, a dentist, hand out a Spud and a toothbrush to trick-or-treaters. - Sapa-AP

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