This time of year, most parents worry about their kids eating too much candy.

Others have to worry about their children eating any candy at all, since it might have or be contaminated with peanuts or tree nuts, both of which can cause life-threatening allergic reactions in children with allergies. Those looking for alternatives can turn to a Boulder company, which makes Sun Cups -- a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup-type confection made with sunflower seed butter -- as well as several other candies.

David Lurie remembers how his company's best selling product, Sun Cups, came to be.

In January of 2009, he got a call as one of the founders of Seth Ellis Chocolatier from a man who insisted on coming to see him.

"He walked in and handed me a jar of sunflower seed butter," Lurie says. "He said, 'Can you make a Reese's cup? You're peanut, (tree nut) and gluten free."

The candy was for the man's son who was allergic to both. Lurie told him to come back in a week and set to work with his chocolatiers.

"The next day I made a cup and fell in love with the product," Lurie says.

The man who brought him the sunflower seed butter, his wife and their son came in to taste the product. The man took a bite and gave it to his son, who loved it.

"The husband and wife started crying," Lurie says. Their severely allergic son had never experienced the simple pleasure, since most candies are made in factories where peanut and tree nut residue may contaminate even candies made without those two substances.

The father pulled out an Epi-pen to show Lurie how he had to give his son an emergency shot if he was exposed to peanuts or tree nuts.

Sun Cups, which are free of peanuts, tree nuts and gluten,  are being prepared for wrapping. The cups are also non-GMO certified.
Sun Cups, which are free of peanuts, tree nuts and gluten, are being prepared for wrapping. The cups are also non-GMO certified. ( CLIFF GRASSMICK )

A large survey of families that looked at 38,000 children under 18 found that 8 percent were allergic to at least one food, about double the previous number believed to have such allergies. The survey, published in a July, 2011 issue of Pediatrics, found that the most common allergen was peanuts, with about 2 percent reporting peanut allergies. Milk and shellfish were the second and third in prevalence, while tree nuts, eggs, fin fish, strawberries, wheat and soy filled out the remainder of the top nine. Many children have more than one food allergy.

Lurie took the Sun Cups to the Fancy Food Show in New York. They were well-received, which led the company to make the product part of its regular line. Since that time, according to Lurie, his two former partners have moved on and started another company. He then shifted the focus of the company to making high-quality confections without gluten, nuts or peanuts. The company also was recently certified non-GMO. To receive that certification, the company had to remove corn and soy products that were used in small amounts and switch to organic milk powder for the milk chocolate, since many cows are fed corn and soy products that are genetically modified.

"The cream for the mint cup and the caramel cup (is from cows fed) all organic feed," Lurie says.

The company works with the Food Allergy Research Education nonprofit, which helps to raise awareness and advocate on behalf of people with food allergies. Sun Cups donate its candy and helps to fund-raise for various FARE walks.

It's a busy time of year for the company, Lurie says.

Local author and food activist Robyn O'Brien says the parents of kids with food allergies struggle this time of year.

"No one is trying to take the candy out of Halloween, but (we would like) to take some of the junk out of the candy."

Along with allergen-free options, that means removing genetically modified organisms, which are present in high fructose corn syrup and other typical candy components.

"There's a generation of kids ... (with) obesity, diabetes, allergies, autism. All parents are mindful now," she says.