Food & Drink

How to Design a Bespoke Goo Goo Cluster

The candy company’s Nashville store lets aspiring confectioners go beyond its classic flavors—way beyond

Goo Goo clusters with their packaging and red lettering.

Photo: Phillip Fryman

The original Goo Goo Cluster features caramel, peanuts, and marshmallow nougat tucked into milk chocolate.

Goo Goo Cluster runs in my blood. When I was a kid, no family road trip was complete without my mom insisting we pull over at a Stuckey’s to stock up on the candy usually displayed near the novelty backscratchers and rubber snakes. And now that I’m a parent myself, my kids raid any Goo Goo stash I attempt to squirrel away.

Stay in Touch with G&G
Get The Skillet, our weekly food and drink newsletter.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

All of this is to say that I may have been inordinately excited when a recent, quick trip to downtown Nashville provided the chance to visit the flagship Goo Goo Chocolate Co. store, situated just a pecan toss from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. For those not in the know, Goo Goo Clusters have been made by the Standard Candy Company in Nashville since 1912 and are considered America’s first mass-produced candy bar that combined multiple elements (more on those elements below).

photo: Courtesy of Goo Goo Cluster
The Goo Goo Cluster flagship.

The store is a clean, bright fan’s delight, fronted by shelves stocked with Goo Goo’s three classic varieties. You desire the “Original” (peanuts, caramel, and marshmallow nougat covered by milk chocolate) packaged in a three-count, twelve-count, or seventy-two-count box? No problem. Or a variety pack that adds pecan and (my favorite) peanut butter versions? Sure thing. There’s Goo Goo–branded coffee and hot cocoa mix and, of course, logo-emblazoned merch, ranging from dog toys to Goo Goo–scented candles.

Happily perusing my way toward the rear of the space, I encounter what resembles a row of sleek ATMs. Closer inspection proves them to be touch-screen kiosks that will allow me to pick from a long roster of ingredients to create a bespoke Goo Goo Cluster that will then be crafted by hand just a few steps away. Even at a price of fifteen dollars, I immediately raise a finger to the screen, but whoa, it almost feels like I’ve been granted too much power, like Taylor Swift has decided to let a random fan produce her next album. The ingredient options alone are transfixing, a list of three types of chocolate coatings and a whopping twenty-two fillings including bourbon caramel, brown sugar nougat, coconut flakes, Fruity Pebbles, hazelnuts, potato chips, toffee pieces, sprinkles, and other goodies your doctor doesn’t need to know about. (In case you’re wondering, I asked—there are 20,475 possible combinations.) After some dithering, I tap my way through an amalgamation of sweet-tooth and snack-fiend weaknesses—milk chocolate, salted caramel, peanut butter, peanuts, and pretzels.

photo: Courtesy of Goo Goo Cluster
Touch-screen kiosks let guests design and take home their own custom Goo Goo Cluster.

I scoot over to the long, gleaming counter and watch as the candy maker’s practiced hands scoop, measure, and pack my choices into a disc-shaped chocolate bottom, then drizzle on more chocolate and place a mold on top. Next comes the hard part—waiting fifteen minutes for my creation to set in the chiller. 

“A few years ago, we were getting requests from groups and wedding parties to create their own flavor,” says Beth Sachan, Goo Goo’s vice president of sales and marketing. “So we quietly introduced the concept to the public with a paper menu that didn’t have nearly as many ingredient choices. It did really well, so when we renovated the store, we made the ‘Design a Goo Goo’ kiosks a key piece. It’s become a big draw, especially with families. On weekends during busy times of the year, there can be a line from the kiosks to the door.”

photo: Phillip Fryman
A sweet and salty Goo Goo Cluster.

Sachan’s personal favorite is dark chocolate, salted caramel, peanut butter, pretzels, rice krispies, and coconut flakes, a combo that officially maxes out the allowed number of components. She’s witnessed even more over-the-top creations. “I don’t quite understand the ones that put in all the sweets, like sprinkles plus gummy bears plus nougat,” she says. “That’s such a sugar bomb.”

To each his own, of course, and when my own bespoke Goo Goo emerges, it’s a hefty, hockey puck–proportioned thing of beauty. Even though it’s only 10 a.m., I take one small bite (okay, three big bites) and confirm that I’ve created a sweet-salty masterpiece. I just might have a delicious future in this.