The Surprising History of Candy Corn
This candy history blog post is brought to you courtesy of guest blogger Esther of Why’d You Eat That?
These days, candy corn is a given when it comes to Halloween. You see it at every party, in every store window display, and eat it by the handful while driving home from a really depressing day at the office only to discover stray kernels months later.
What I’m saying is candy corn has become kind of commonplace. It’s become expected, really. But that hasn’t always been the case. Candy corn used to be an exciting innovation. I know, right? Candy corn an innovation. Crazy, right? Not so much. That tri-color technology was mind-blowing.
The lil’ nibbles were invented by George Renniger, an employee of the Wunderlee Candy Company in Philadelphia. While Wunderlee is credited with being the first to sell commercially, the sale and production of candy corn is mostly attributed to Goelitz Confectionary Company. The candy corn business was started by the second generation of Goelitz candy makers in 1898. It kept the company afloat through the Great Depression and WWI and II. You may not have heard of Goelitz before. That’s because they changed their name to Jelly Belly.
At the beginning, candy corn was actually called “chicken feed.” This made sense considering in those days corn was chicken feed. People didn’t eat corn the way we do today, mainly cause it tasted icktastic. Chicken feed (the candy) had no association with Halloween or fall. It was, however, a seasonal candy due to the tedious nature of the work. Chicken feed was only available between March and November.
Candy corn was a type of “mellow cream.” A mellow cream (or mellocreme or mellowcream or mellowcreme) candy is made from corn syrup and sugar with marshmallow flavor. Goelitz originally called them butter cream candies. However, there was pressure to change the name in the 1950s since there wasn’t any actual butter in the recipe. False advertising, my friends. It shall not be tolerated.
The recipe for candy corn was simple: sugar, corn syrup, water, and other ingredients were put into massive kettles that could hold up to 45lbs of the mixture. It was cooked into a slurry and, once well blended, marshmallow and fondant were added to the kettles. This served to smooth out the texture and make the candy soft to the bite. The mixture was poured into buckets called “runners” and workers called “stringers” would walk backwards while they poured the mixture into large kernel-shaped, cornstarch molds. The workers passed over with the buckets three times, each time with a different color: white, orange, and yellow. Fun fact: candy corn is made from bottom to top. The yellow bit is the top and the white is the bottom.
Once dry, the kernels were removed from the molds and packed into wooden boxes, tubs, and cartons and shipped by wagon or train. The treat was perishable so it couldn’t travel for long periods of time. The butter cream candies were sold out of barrels in bulk candy and drug stores and became so popular that other companies tried emulating them. Rival companies made turnips, four leaf clovers, chestnuts, and other natural shapes, but those were nothing compared to the revolutionary tri-color candy corn.
In the 1940s, candy companies began making use of “family sized” clear cellophane bags, the better to keep candy fresh while still allowing consumers to see what was inside. It was important to continue showing off the three colors but now Goelitz could ship the candy farther than before.
In the 1900s, the demand for the tiny treat increased so much that Goelitz had to actually turn down orders. They didn’t have the production capacity to keep up with its popularity. That changed over the years and in 1951, the Goelitz Company had 12 factories around the country making candy corn. After WWII, candy corn was advertised as a Halloween candy and since then you can’t have Halloween without the candy corn.
And there you have it. A short history of candy corn. Now go impress your co-workers at the company Halloween party.
Bibliography for Candy Corn:
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-”Fun Facts About Candy Corn – Candy and Chocolate – NCA.” NCA – National Confectioners Association. National Confectioners Association. Web. 28 Oct. 2011.
-”Farley’s & Sathers Candy Company, Inc. Fun Facts and FAQs.” Farley’s & Sathers Candy Company Home Page. Farley’s & Sathers Candy Company, 07 Mar. 2008. Web. 28 Oct. 2011.
-Huget, Jennifer L. “The Chemistry of Candy Corn.” The Washington Post: National, World & D.C. Area News and Headlines – The Washington Post. The Washington Post, 28 Oct. 2011. Web. 28 Oct. 2011.
-Watson, Stephanie. “What is candy corn and how is it made?” 29 September 2006. HowStuffWorks.com. 28 October 2011.
-”History of Candy Corn, King of Halloween Candy.” Haunted Bay. Haunted Bay. Web. 29 Oct. 2011.
-Weston, Nicole. “The History Of… Candy Corn.” Slashfood.com. The Huffington Post, 30 Oct. 2006. Web. 29 Oct. 2011.
-Kawash, Samira. “Where Our Love/Hate Relationship With Candy Corn Comes From.”The Atlantic — News and Analysis on Politics, Business, Culture, Technology, National, International, and Life – TheAtlantic.com. The Atlantic, 30 Oct. 2010. Web. 29 Oct. 2011.
-Kawash, Samira. “1951 Goelitz Candy Corn Ad.” Candy Professor. 30 Oct. 2010. Web. 29 Oct. 2011.
-“Candy Corn.” 2011. The History Channel website. Oct 28 2011, 8:08.