Archive for the ‘Candy History’ Category

Brachs Candy Memories can earn you a SweetCertificate!

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009 by Jon
Do you remember when Bulk Candy was $.49

Do you remember when Bulk Candy was $.49

I have always been a fan on innovation and few companies have captured my imagination more than Brach’s Candy. 

It is not that this company is the most innovative in terms of their current offerings but they surely have shaped the way candy is consumed and marketed.

In 1904, Emil Brach immigrated to United States and opened his first candy store in the Windy City of Chicago. The first product offered was Caramels, known today as Milk Maid Caramel Squares,  and Mr. Brach was the first to use mass production to create  candy combining high quality and a low price.

While the latter might not be the case today, one would be hard pressed to find a better manufacturer of butterscotch disks, candy corn or ice blue mint coolers to name but a few of their better known products.

While the candy speak for itself, few realize that Brach’s was the first to introduce the concept of purchasing candy en masse which lead to the creation of the bulk candy industry which now is taken for granted.

Many companies claim to have offered the first “penny candy” but it was Brach’s that created the infrastructure allowing for self service and different varieties of loose candy.

 The concept was called “Pick and Mix” and combined “old school” displays such as barrels, jars and scoops, a precursor to what is now found in Supermarkets around the globe!

McKeesport Candy Co. was one of the first candy wholesalers in the nation to offer bulk candy and we were one of the first distributors of Brach’s dating back to our first purchase in the 1930’s. 

Candy manufacturers have come and gone and Brach’s has changed corporate ownership quite a few times in it’s one hundred and five (105) year history but few companies have such a loyal following nor such a sweet history.

Please share with us your favorite memory of Brach’s Candy and, if chosen, we will send you a $10 Sweet Certificate which you can apply to any order on

Chocolate Tootsie Pops and urban lore…

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009 by Jon
Why is the Indian on the Tootise Pop Wrapper Circled? Read on...

Why is the Indian on the Tootsie Pop Wrapper Circled? Read on...

What comes around goes around and this applies to the beloved, and elusive, Chocolate Tootsie Pops.

In 1931, fueled by the success of the soft “chocolaty” Tootsie Roll, an employee of the Sweets Company of America – renamed Tootsie Roll Industries in 1966 – decided to encase the famous candy in a hard candy shell and thus Tootsie Pops were inadvertently born.  These famous lollipops were a precursor to what is now called “novelty candy” as they were advertised as candy with a prize center.

 I am sure that the inventor, Luke Weisgram, never imagined that the company would eventually produce twenty (20) million lollipops daily!

The first flavor was chocolate which remains the most sought after flavor as any supermarket bulk candy bin will silently attest.   Today, despite literally dozens of flavors, Chocolate Tootsie Pops remain an elusive treat.

As to the proverbial question of “how many licks does it take to get to center of a Tootsie Roll Pop,” a group of engineering students from Purdue University recorded that their licking machine, modeled after a human tongue, took an average of 364 licks to get to the center!  So much for the beloved Tootsie Mascot, Mr. Owl’s claim of “the world may never know…”

As for the urban legend that if you receive a Tootsie Pop with a Native American aiming a bow and arrow, Tootsie Pop Industries will give you free candy, we are sad to report that like so many legends, this remains more fiction than fact, however, if you contact Tootsie Roll Industries and tell them how many licks it takes to finish your Tootsie Pop, the will send you a Clean Stick Certificate.

PS: Ironically, I noticed that boxes from the manufacturer are now bearing the following, “Watch for new flavors added to our mix.”   Stay tuned, as this will surely be the topic of another entry….

Haribo Gummi Bears are the “Gold” Standard

Monday, July 13th, 2009 by Jon
Haribo Gummi Bears were invenetd in the 1920's

Haribo Gummi Bears were invented in the 1920's

Despite hundreds of unwrapped bulk items, Gummi Bears remain one of our best selling items and, love or hate them; they are a candy with a unique taste and history.

Gummi Bears were created in Germany during the 1920’s by Hans Riegel, the founder of Haribo, and were originally called Tanzbar which loosely translates to “dancing bear.”

The original gummi dancing bear was longer and leaner than today’s gummi bears and an unsubstantiated claim is that this influenced one of the logo’s of the famous pop band, The Grateful Dead.  It wasn’t until 1951 that the design changed to the current style.

An interesting piece of overlooked trivia is that the name HARIBO is an amalgamation of the owner’s first name (HA), his last name name (RI) and a tribute to the town in Germany, Bonn, (BO) where the company was located.

Haribo Gummi Bears were quite a rarity as the original ones, known as Gold Bears, were imported and had “cult status”.  It wasn’t until 1982 that Haribo began producing gummi candies in America.

Despite a World War and three (3) generation of ownership, Haribo remains one of the largest gummi candy producers in the world creating approximately eighty (80) million gummi bears a day for global distribution!

Herman Goelitz, of Jelly Belly fame, is also credited with making the first gummi bear; however, a distinction needs to be noted as he was the first person to make Gummi Bears in North America which occurred in 1981.

Cracker Jacks were quite innovative!

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009 by Jon
A Cracker Jacks Advertisement from 1919

A Cracker Jacks Advertisement from 1919

Cracker Jacks  have been an American icon ever since their introduction in  1893 at the World’s Fair in Chicago. Their name was given by a bystander who said, “That’s a Cracker, Jack” when he had his first taste!

Nineteen (19) years passed and in 1912, the first toy “surprise” was included and this is one of the first examples of a company marketing a “limited” edition” which has become commonplace in the candy industry in the past few year…

1918 was another banner year for branding as Sailor Jack and his beloved mascot Bingo were introduced.

Perhaps the piece of trivia that I find most intriguing is that Cracker Jacks were one of the first products to actively benefit from subtle product placement which has become the norm. Think of ET and Reese’s Pieces or Ronald Reagan and Jelly Bellies and this will give you an idea of where the trend started.

According to Mike Pesca, a correspondent for National Public Radio, the inclusion of the famous lines, “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks” in the 1908 classic “ Take Me Out to the Ball Game” generates approximately $25 million dollars worth of free advertising!

The boxes have become increasingly difficult to source but, like peanuts, they remain a staple of American summers and long nights at baseball games….

By the way, if you can tell us which rock star mentions Cracker Jacks in one of his songs, please let us know and we will send you a $10 Sweetcertificate!

Will the real Fun Dip please stand up

Monday, July 6th, 2009 by Jon
Fun Dip was once called Lik-M-Aid
Did you know that Fun Dip was once called Lik-M-Aid

Are you still searching for Lik-M-Aid?

True candy lovers know that the classic “lick and dip” candy known as Lik-M-Aid was introduced in 1942 and disappeared in the late 1980’s only to reemerge as Fun Dip. 

The candy was always intended for dipping but the iconic “dipping stick” known affectionately as Lik-A-Stick was not added until the 1970’s.  The actual flavor remains a mystery and a subject of debate.

As for the powdered sugar ,different variations have been introduced throughout the years and they remain similar to what is found in Pixy Sticks which ,ironically, is owned by the same company, Nestle USA, and featured in their Willy Wonka line..

Despite all, one thing is often overlooked and that is that Fun Dip is a candy with an illustrious, close to seventy year (70) old, history. If you look closely at current packaging, you will see that Fun Dip still pays homage to its original namesake as well it should!

The origin of Milk Duds

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009 by Jon
Mild Duds - An American Candy Icon
Mild Duds – An American Candy Icon

Having spent my life surrounded by candy, I have to admit that I am a fan of the history of the many products that we sell. New candies are introduced regularly yet few survive long enough to make it to the shelves let alone qualify for having a history.

I stumbled across the curious origins of Milk Duds which I thought readers would enjoy.  Little do many realize that this candy was, in some regards, a fortuitous mistake.

In 1928, the defunct F.Hoffman and Co., of Chicago, one of the original inventors of chocolate covered caramels was purchased by an entrepreneur named Milton J.Holloway who had an idea to create a round piece of candy which was nothing more than caramel enrobed with high quality milk chocolate.

Despite numerous tries and due to manufacturing limitations, it was impossible to create a round candy and thus all of their tries produced nothing except irregular shaped pieces that they called “duds.”

Despite best intentions, they were never able to produce their dream BUT they realized that the product was delicious nevertheless….

Fast forward sixty eight years and Hershey Chocolates took ownership of this brand from Leaf Confections and changed the formula from cocoa butter to a “lesser priced oil substitute” and therefore it is no longer, technically, a milk chocolate based product.

Despite changes of ownership, a formula change and 84 years of trial and error, Milk Duds remain one of the best selling candies in the world, a personal favorite ,and  a historic candy icon .

Lest I forget, we were one of the first candy wholesalers in the nation to offer this oh so irregular yet oh so good candy long before it was considered retro…

McCraws Taffy is back!

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009 by Jon
McCraws Giant Taffy Sticks are back!

McCraws Giant Taffy Sticks are back!

Mc Craws Taffy disappeared from the shelves of candy stores about two (2) years ago without explanation. The phone number for the original manufacturer was disconnected and rumors circulated as to whether this classic taffy would ever be available again. 

A few months ago, it was announced that the original owners were back in business and candy lovers rejoiced! 

Why the fuss you ask?

Mc Craw’s Old Fashioned Taffy Sticks have been a cult item ever since their accidental discovery in 1900.   They are colorful, great tasting and oh so retro.

Originally, the company sold popcorn and the taffy was introduced as something to compliment the line. Ironically, as time passed, the fame of the taffy grew and the popcorn business dwindled.

Ironically, when the company changed ownership last year – the original owner sold the company and then repurchased it – they found themselves closed on their hundredth anniversary which is sad as this would have guaranteed them a place in the pantheon of oldest candy manufacturers in the United States.

Regardless, despite this ever so brief hiatus, the box still states that they have been “ticklin’ the taste buds since 1908” and that these taffy sticks are “ lovingly crafted by the fine folks in Farmersville, Texas.”

As the slogan goes, “try to eat a piece without smiling….” We wish you the best of luck in this endeavor….

We sold Retro Candy before it was considered RETRO….

Thursday, June 25th, 2009 by Jon
National Candy Wholesalers Association Ad Circa 1950

National Candy Wholesalers Association Ad Circa 1950

Few people know that is backed by McKeesport Candy Co. who is one of the oldest candy wholesalers in North America!

Founded in 1927, the company originally specialized in selling candy to small “mom and pop” stores throughout Western Pennsylvania and now is one of the largest retailers of candy in the United States…and beyond!

Our founder (and my grandfather), Ernest Prince was a visionary and was one of the first Presidents of National Candy Wholesalers Association and my father was one of the first to offer “pick and mix” bulk candy in a retail setting.

Our first website was launched in 1997 and although it wasn’t focused on online commerce, it was the first candy related website launched by an independent candy wholesaler!

Ironically, many web store tout themselves as being Bulk and Retro Candy Specialists, but we were selling these products before they were consider retro!

We were one of the first to offer Bulk Candy and the first brand featured was Brachs Candy. Eighty (80) years later, this brand remains near and dear to our heart despite over 500 bulk products that we offer!

As per retro candies, what other online candy store can boast that Clark Bars were invented in their home town (actually, the company was established in the suburb of McKeesport, PA where our warehouse is located) or that they were one of the first candy companies in the nation to offer Pop Rocks?

Many claim to be retro candy experts but few have the longevity to back their claims.

With the advent of the Internet and the host of new products, we remain committed to our core vision which is to provide tried and true candies along with the best customer service in the online candy industry….

We would love to hear your memories of candy favorites, old and new, as those alone are what allow everyday candies to fall into the fabled retro category…

- Jon H.Prince

If you don’t succeed, try, try again….

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009 by Jon
The sign from Milton Hershey's first store...

The sign from Milton Hershey's first store...

Did you know that Milton Hershey, the Founder of the Hershey Chocolate Empire, attempted to open his first store when he was only Eighteen (18) Years Old!
The first store attempt was in Philadelphia ,located on Spring Street , and it took 133 years for this historic acheivement to be recognized!
Even though Mr. Hershey’s first attempt at retail wasn’t a success, he didn’t lose hope and thanks to his efforts, the world is a FAR sweeter place.
The great irony of the story is that the former location is now a GUN STORE!

All about the Clark Bar

Thursday, November 1st, 2007 by Jon


Clark bars, the signature item of one of the country’s largest candy empires, started with a small operation run by young entrepreneur David L. Clark in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Mr. Clark entered the candy business in 1891 and spent a few years learning the trade before starting his own company, D.L. Clark Co., in 1886.

He manufactured candy in two back rooms of a small house with the help of a small staff.

Within a few years, he made enough money to open a small factory in McKeesport, where the company became incorporated

By 1911, the company had outgrown its factory, and Mr. Clark purchased a large building from a cracker manufacturer.

In the 1920s when the company was making approximately one hundred and fifty (150) different types of candy and gum, Mr. Clark decided to create a separate entity for the gum-making business.

He felt that the candy and gum operations would be more successful if the were run separately, so he opened the Clark Brothers Chewing Gum Co. across the street from his candy factory.

Following Mr. Clark’s death in 1939, his family continued to run the business until 1955. The company operated smoothly in Pittsburgh for several decades but ran into financial difficulties in the 1990s.

Eventually, the company was bought by New England Confectionary Co. and relocated.

Like many retro favorites, McKeesport Candy Co., was one of the first wholesaler in the nation to offer Clark Bars and still does so today via its web site at