© Angelo Merendino

Y’all, I love candy.

I love gummy bears (especially the sour ones), chocolate, licorice, candy canes, lollipops and caramels. The list goes on.

I think I get this from my mom, who always had a treasure trove of sweets in her purse (still does). She got it from her dad, who was rarely without a bag of jelly beans ready to fill the outstretched hands of his grandson.

I was recently on vacation in California’s central coast area, and I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me before then, but popular tourist areas such as Monterey’s Cannery Row or downtown Carmel-by-the-Sea are candy shop havens. They seemed to outnumber souvenir stores two-to-one.

You better believe I stopped into nearly every one. And although most of them carried popular candies — perhaps some that you, dear reader, make — they also make their own sweet treats. Rows of fudge squares, bonbons and more filled display cases. One shop, fittingly in Carmel, made its own salty, sweet and indulgent caramels. (Yes, I took some home with me.)

The shops also all had another thing in common. There wasn’t a frown to be found. Employees, customers — I think I saw a very good doggo walk out smiling.

Candy just makes us happy. Sure, it’s a bit naughty, but we all deserve the decadence.

That experience reminded me of meeting the food safety and quality assurance team at Spangler Candy Co. for this issue’s cover story (“Candy Land”).

As I toured its Bryan, Ohio, facility, there wasn’t a frown to be found there either. It was loud and hot (depending on which part of the facility we were in, of course), but everyone was all smiles. I met one candymaker, working the candy cane line, who also pulled double duty as Spangler’s mascot, the Dum-Dums Drum Man.

I know at times we’re all still wrestling with how to define food safety culture — or at least how to measure it — but surely part of it is seeing employees who are clearly happy in what they’re doing.

“It’s fun that you’re making candy,” Steve Kerr, Spangler’s vice president of food safety and contract manufacturing, told me. “But the culture of Spangler Candy is great. They care about their employees. It’s not necessarily the business, it’s the people you work with.”