Styling and Photography by Laurie Mosco
As a leading candy manufacturer and distributor, with a robust team of confectionery experts, one of the top questions our reps are asked is ‘How can I build a show stopping candy buffet?’ Much like goodie bags, swag bags, party favors, and centerpieces, candy buffets have become a MUST for any celebration. No matter the event, children’s birthday parties, baby showers, weddings — and even fundraisers, a candy buffet or candy table sets the stage.
Whether you own a food or candy retail space, or if you are an event planner, we’re sure you get asked this question a lot, too! This coveted knowledge can set you apart from your competition.
Let’s not keep a lid on it! Here are the top tips from our experts to make your candy buffet the life of the party.
1. Think of Candy as Decor
If a candy buffet is done right, you won’t need much more decoration to stir up the excitement. The candy does most of the decorating work for you! The foundation to any good candy buffet is the containers. You should have a variety of fun shapes and all should be see-through to show off the beautiful candy. For a professional-looking buffet you want at least 3 different heights, tall, medium and short as you’ll be arranging candy by zones. (More on zones later.)
While you want the buffet to look beautiful, you also want to think of food safety. Nothing ruins a party more than broken glass, so we always recommend using plastic jars so that if there is spillage, or someone chips the jar when putting in a scoop or tongs, no one gets hurt.
Play around with different container shapes. Looking for a modern feel? Go with sleek rounded or square column containers. Give a party some old-time elegance with plastic mason and apothecary jars. For a more mature party, plastic cocktail glasses will get the cheers and it’s easy for guests to enjoy candy while mingling.
2. Mix it Up with a Variety of Colors or Shades
Now that you’re in the mindset that candy buffet = decoration it’s time for the fun part – choosing the candy! Much like you select event colors (like bridal party colors), we recommend selecting the color, or colors, for your candy buffet before embarking on a candy hunt. It helps keep you focused when combing through the bins and aisles of mouthwatering confections. We recommend beginning with 2 colors, — a main color and an accent color, or just a single color in varying shades. A monochromatic palette is especially dramatic and sophisticated with an assortment of candies in varying shades of the same color. An event with more playfulness and whimsy, like a children’s birthday party or baby shower, will pass the fun test with flying colors if a rainbow candy buffet is on the menu.
3. Match Sweets to the Theme/Venue
Along with color, depending on the type of event, you may want to extend your sweets selection to match up with the venue, the event theme, or the fundraising cause.
For an event at an aquarium or seaside venue, then gummy sharks, gummy starfish, and chocolate beach seashells are a must! A garden party candy buffet looks extra lush with dextrose flowers, and foiled chocolates with a flower theme. Unicorns are a popular theme for kid’s parties and candy buffets look oh so sweet with gummy unicorns, Magical Unicorn and Rainbow Marshmallow Wands, or even Unicorn “Poop” Rainbow Licorice Twists. A fundraiser supporting an animal shelter is doggone perfect with red licorice Scottie dogs, black licorice cats, and dextrose funny bones.
4. Offer a Variety of Candy Types
A really successful candy buffet is not only a feast for the eyes, but the taste buds, too! You want to offer candies that coordinate with the color or theme, but remember you need a wide variety of palate-pleasers to ensure there is something for everyone. A great assortment would include a few varieties of gummies, hard candies like lollipops or rock candy, wrapped chocolate or chocolate buttons (great choice for warmer weather), licorice, and colorful crunchy dextrose candies.
5. Play with Texture
You want guests to be excited at the sight of the buffet, and feeling like (to use a cliche) a kid in a candy store, not knowing what to choose first because everything looks inviting! The way to achieve that is by incorporating candies of different textures. Catch their eyes with the gleam of gummies that feature sparkling sugar coating, the smooth, shiny shell of candy buttons, the textured diamond-like edges of rock candy, and the crinkly shine of wrapped candies and foiled chocolates.
This rule not only goes for candies, but any decorations you decide to incorporate into your candy buffet too. Add fresh flowers or greenery to the table to add texture and visual interest. Balloons, paper or silk flowers, even signage are all terrific ways to add textural elements and bring the whole buffet together. It’s especially useful to craft signs denoting the types and flavors of the various candies – and calling out those that are sugar-free or vegan, etc.
6. Build Zones of Different Heights
To achieve a candy buffet with a professionally-designed feel, create a layout of varying heights, according to Hostess with the Mostess. You want at least 3 zones – Tall – Medium and Low.
The tall section is just like it sounds, the tallest items. You want this section located in the back. Since people will be serving themselves, tall items should be easy to grab like giant lollipops, giant marshmallow pops, twist pops, or rock candy on a stick. If the container you want to use for display doesn’t allow for easy reach, use a little bulk candy in the bottom to raise the height.
The Medium range should include the bulk self-serve items in interesting jars and other clear vessels. Try to alternate colors and textures. Arrange them with some items forward, and some toward the back to create depth.
The Low zone is where you draw guests in with items that are easy to grab and gobble up. These can be prepacked items in your color scheme, or premium confections like chocolate covered sandwich cookies, chocolate covered cherries, or fruit slices – presented on trays with tongs or in bowls with scoops or spoons, for easy reach in the front of the table.
7. Include Prepackaged Items
Not all guests will want to serve themselves. Don’t let them miss out on the candy buffet fun! Serve prepackaged confections along with the self-serve items. Since candy= decoration, packaging that’s graphically appealing like AmuseMints Birthday Cake in a Bag, and Donut Holes, or mint tins with recognizable characters and themes like those from Boston America are a party in a box. Position these pre-packed items at the low level front and center to draw guests in .
8. Serving Utensils and Containers are a Must
This may seem obvious, but a candy buffet is only successful if guests can enjoy it as well as look at it. Don’t forget the utensils! Also make sure to have a scoop for every bulk container so guests won’t have to stand around waiting for a free utensil – or worse, use their fingers.
Like any buffet, you also want to have something to contain your guests’ selections nearby. Partygoers will appreciate fun containers like colorful takeout boxes or cups when presented for their use. For a customized approach, recommend custom bags like AmuseMint’s cloth Gold Mine or Pirate Bones Bags. These fabric bags can be customized with an image or saying to coordinate with the event and they hold a good portion of bulk candy, too. Great for snacking while at the shindig and to bring home as a favor.
9. Offer Readymade Candy Buffet Kits
Everyone wants a personalized event that would make Martha Stewart envious, but some folks are afraid to be a Pinterest fail. Make it easy for customers to create social media-worthy candy buffets of their dreams with a complete candy buffet kit. Package together containers and utensils, and allow them to personalize by selecting a certain amount of bulk candies for a particular price. Offer elegant packed items like large lollipops, twist pops or giant chocolate cups as an add-on. If you can’t be there with them during setup, include a printout with all the tips and tricks we’ve outlined, and be sure to put your logo and contact info on it, so they can share with guests. Encourage customers to come back for their next event by offering a discount for future candy buffet candy purchases. If you have your own social media, ask that they share their images and tag your business.
Plan that party now! See a sampling of our color selection