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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Biar

4 Top Candies and Their Histories

Candy is sweet and delicious. We enjoy it when celebrating and feeling sad. The history of candy is also as sweet and delicious as the candy itself.

Candy Corn
Candy Corn

The Candy season is here. Did you know that each year the average American family spends $44 on Halloween candy or that collectively we Americans purchase 600 million pounds of Halloween candy? Whoa! We like our candy. Whether we are talking about candy for Halloween, Christmas, or any time of the year, the below top sellers are tasty. Each has its own fascinating candy history.

1. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups were invented in 1928 and have a fascinating candy history. They were the invention of Harry Burnett Reese, or H.B. Reese, as he was known. Before starting his own candy company, H.B. had worked for the Hershey Chocolate Company as a dairy farmer and foreman.

H.B. invented the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup in his home’s basement near Hershey, Pennsylvania. His candy company made an assortment of chocolate-covered candy, but the peanut butter cups were the most popular. He eventually stopped producing other types of candies and focused on the peanut butter cups. In 1935, he began to sell them as individually packaged items; the cups sold for $.05!

The company was a family business for many years. H.B. was a father of 16 children! And when he died, his sons took over the business merging it with Hershey’s in 1963.

Today, the H.B. Reese Candy Company is a subsidiary of Hershey’s. From the very beginning, Reese’s cups used Hershey’s chocolate. And, the merging of the companies seems very appropriate. Reese’s continues to be one of the top-selling candies for Hershey’s. My personal favorite is the Reese’s pumpkin or Christmas tree or egg. They are all delicious!

2. Snickers

We all love a Snickers, another fascinating candy history. Snickers, a delicious peanut, chocolate, nougat, caramel candy, was invented in 1930 by Frank Mars. Frank and Ethel Mars, another candy maker with modest roots, started the Mars Candy Factory in 1911 in Washington State. While the company didn’t first succeed, they moved to Minnesota, and then to Chicago. Success was met!

Fame came with the creation of the Milky Way bar, marketed as “malted milk in a candy bar.” Yum! Their Snickers bar was invented in 1930 and named after a family champion horse.

Snickers is a top seller candy around the world. Snickers is still manufactured by Mars, which continues the legacy of being a private company famous for its secrecy. While I love the original Snickers, I may love the Almond Snickers just a tiny bit more. And interestingly, the Almond Snickers is basically a re-named Mars bar, which was discontinued in 2002. Snickers really satisfies!

3. Candy Corn

Original Candy Corn
Original Candy Corn

I find candy corn to have the most fascinating candy history. First of all, I have often about wondered the ingredients in candy corn. It turns out candy corn is comprised mostly of sugar, corn syrup, fondant, and marshmallow, which equals addiction for me. Way back in 1880, this confection was concocted by George Renninger, an employee at the Wunderlee Candy Company (now made by the Jelly Belly Candy Company).

Second, it was originally made and marketed as “Chicken Feed.” Back in 1880, half of the American population were farmers. And, interestingly, corn at that time was predominately used for chicken and pig feed. Therefore, candy corn was playfully named chicken feed.

It wasn’t until after WWII, when Halloween really took off in popularity for trick or treating, that Candy Corn’s name and branding changed. Today, we can find Candy Corn in stores all year long, but it is closely associated with the fall and Halloween. My fall is not complete without candy corn (and marshmallow pumpkins!)

4. Airheads

Born on August 7, 1985, Airheads are a fruit-flavored taffy candy that is sour and tangy. I chose to include this candy because it is usually the favorite choice among my children. It, too, has a fascinating candy history. This is no surprise as the candy was made and marketed to kids.

The inventor, Steve Bruner, an employee of Van Melle Incorporated, needed to find a way to use some idle candy manufacturing machines. He came up with an idea for fruit soft chew candy. The problem was the candy was very sticky. The next step was to locate a wrapper that the candy would not stick to while packaged. The answer was mylar.

To find the name, Steve asked his sons what they would call a friend who did something silly. Airhead was among the listed. And, Airhead stuck. Commercial buyers may have initially been skeptical of Airheads, but this candy has been extremely popular. Today Airheads are available in 16 different flavors and in demand!

Fortunately, we Americans have countless candy options available to us. Many delectable options exist whether you are a chocolate type of gal (like me!) or a sour candy person. The next time you dig into your favorite piece of sweet goodness, visualize the story behind the candy. The history of candy is as sweet as the candy itself!

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