Fudge as an incident of tourism

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Walk on the boardwalk of Santa Cruz or most any other tourist-oriented American seaside community (and they nearly all have boardwalks, or "Fisherman's wharf" or some-such thing, don't they?) and nestled between the fish restaurants and shops selling tourist schwag you'll notice one that sells candy, and in particular fudge and salt-water taffy. Until recently, this never struck me as particularly remarkable, probably due to small sample size, and because such boardwalks are typically festivals of junk food anyway; the Santa Cruz boardwalk is actually an amusement park. Moreover, they're located near the sea and for some reason I've always mentally registered salt water taffy as a maritime product (it's the salt water bit, don't you know?).

Strangely, while I've seen lots of candy stores, I don't recall ever seeing a "fudge store" anywhere outside a tourist area. This could of course be observer bias, but I'm fairly partial to fudge so I tend to think I would have noticed. I recently encountered this phenomenon in its purest form in Canmore, Alberta, which hosts a thriving tourist trade (for skiing) and boasts a combination fudge/candy/gift shop, called, as I recall "Fudge and Gifts". It wasn't particularly good fudge, as you might expect to be served by someone who went into the business because they loved fudge. It's more like the proprietors sensed that tourists needed fudge and gifts and decided to fill the need. So, the question I have is: what is it about fudge that makes it particularly attractive to sell to tourists?

My best explanation is that fudge is basically an indulgence product--not in the sense that it's expensive, but in the sense that it's clearly incredibly rich and fattening--and that people in vacation have given themselves leave to indulge in a way they wouldn't at home. The problem with this explanation, of course, is that ice cream is also incredibly rich but North America is littered with ice cream shops, even in totally non-tourist cities like Palo Alto or Dallas, and ice cream has been getting more fatty and rich over the years, not less. It's not obviously climatic, either, since there are plenty of ice cream stores in cold areas. Another possibility is that ice cream is just better than (preferred to, that is) and so people are more willing to indulge regularly. That's not much of an explanation either, but it's the best one I have. Can you do better?

6 Comments

Unlike chocolate, fudge is relatively good at enduring extremes of temperature without losing its shit. So you can pack fudge in your suitcase, stick it in a hot car trunk on your way to the airport, stick it in a sub-freezing airplane luggage compartment, back to hot car trunk for the trip from the airport, then unpack it and give it to someone/eat it without too much trouble.

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, which we see both in tourist areas AND outside, does a fair amount of fudge sales.

I suspect the reason has more to do with economics. Chocky, particularly milk requires a huge capital investment. Fudge can be made on a stove top.

Chocky is a highly differentiated product, minor variations in manufacture have a huge impact on taste. Once people get used to a particular taste they stick with it. Hershey developed his 'barnyard chocolate' in the hope that americans would develop an exclusive taste for his product. Fudge is undifferentiated.

Consumption of fudge is pretty much self limiting. Most adults find it too sweet to start with. Most people can eat much more chocolate than they would care to eat fudge.

So it makes much more sense for advertising dollars to be spent promoting chocolate than fudge.

Thinking about it, you're right - I've pretty much only seen fudge for sale in touristy areas (or 'olde time shoppes' of a certain sort). If I were to hazard a guess, I'd think it was a combination of several things.

Fudge doesn't seem to lend itself well to manufacturing in huge quantities - although it's certainly fun to watch it being made (which seems to be a constant in many places where fudge is sold).

Fudge also seems to have a high enough fat content to make the texture change in interesting and not always enjoyable ways in fairly short order (it goes from creamy to crunchy and dry).

Fudge is 'exotic' because it's hard to find outside of touristy areas - but 'safe' as a known quantity.

As fudge stores go - check a choclatier...

There's a fudge shop in Logan airport, around where Delta boards. I dont know how this interacts with your tourist theory.

I'm with Nick Weaver on this. Fudge can be found outside of touristy areas, but there has to be a high enough level of disposable income floating around. I suspect, but do not know, that the more elite college towns might be fertile hunting ground (Palo Alto, seemingly, excluded). I'm 930 miles from the nearest ocean, and my town has 2 fudge retailers (one a Rocky Mountain etc., the other sells ice cream and candy, too). Go figure.

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