Stir Stick Shortage: Should I Worry?

As if the impending demise of atomic fireballs weren’t enough, now the Ferrara Candy Company is breaking my heart again.

While shopping last month for fun little gifts to wrap up for the grandkids, I headed for the Christmas candy aisle at the Algood Walmart. The kids love peppermint, so maybe I’d buy each of them a giant candy cane, big as one of the souvenir baseball bats you get after touring the Louisville Slugger factory. Or maybe they’d like a twelve-pack of red-and-green candy canes. Or a bag filled with mini-candy canes, individually wrapped so they could share with friends. Good choices, all.

But as luck would have it, I spotted something a little different. It was a small blue box, about the size of deck of cards. In the middle was a cellophane window. “Brach’s Soft Peppermint Stir Sticks,” the writing on the box said. “Made with real peppermint oil.” Beside the words was a picture of a mug with a stir stick resting in what I assumed was hot chocolate because it had marshmallows floating in it.

I picked up a box and peered through the window. These sticks were clearly not the slick, rock-hard peppermint from which traditional candy canes are made. Their surface was decidedly un-shiny and somewhat porous. This candy looked exactly like the iconic King Leo peppermints sticks of old, except not quite as long. Every year for many years, I’d made a special trip clear across town to buy King Leos in a round metal tin at Spring Street Market. It was a Christmas tradition.

Alas, Spring Street Market is now nothing but a sweet memory, so I gently placed six boxes of Brach’s Stir Sticks—one for each of my grandchildren–into my Walmart buggy.

Here’s what happened next, as you might already have guessed. When I got home, I decided I needed to sample one of the stir sticks. No sense in giving the kids candy that didn’t taste good, right? The good news is that the stick I ate was every bit as delicious as I’d hoped it would be. But now the box was open. I might as well brew a pot of coffee and see how a stir stick actually functioned, right? It worked perfectly, adding just the right hint of minty sweetness to my coffee. After the coffee was gone I finished the candy, which had just the right hint of Maxwell House. Before the day was over I had consumed five peppermint stir sticks.

Now I had to decide which grandchild would receive only half a Christmas present, knowing in my guilty heart that all of them were way too savvy to be fooled by a box lid held shut with Scotch tape.

The obvious solution was amazon, delivered straight to my mailbox in plenty of time for Christmas. But when I logged on, I discovered that, though amazon did indeed have 5-ounce boxes of Brach’s Stir Sticks for sale, they were asking five dollars for a five-ounce box. Five dollars! I’d only paid one dollar at Walmart for that very same box. Naturally, I logged onto They wanted $8.50 per box. A seller on eBay listed five ounces for ten dollars. What the heck was going on??? A quick internet search hinted that Ferrara Candy Company—the same company that made atomic fireball and discontinued them a few months ago—might also be ceasing production of stir sticks.

So I pulled on my coat and hopped in my car and drove straight to the Cookeville Walmart. In the Christmas candy aisle, I found an intact case of 28 boxes of Brach’s Soft Peppermint Stir Sticks. The price? One dollar per box. Without guilt, I bought them all. Each of the grandkids got an unopened box for Christmas. But next year, I’ll wrap up a deck of cards instead.

Because I’m saving the rest of those stir sticks all for myself.

(January 13, 2024)