1. When did people first start eating candy?
Well, it all depends on your point of view. Did cavemen eat Twizzlers and Milky Ways? Probably not. But honey, a naturally sweet treat, has been a favorite throughout recorded history and is even mentioned in the Bible. According to the National Confectioners Association, the ancient Egyptians, Arabs and Chinese candied fruits and nuts in honey – making an early form of candy. The Mayans and the Aztecs both prized the cocoa bean, and Mayan texts refer to cacao as the “food of the gods.” In 1519, Spanish explorers in Mexico discovered the cacao tree, and chocolate made its way to Europe. People in England and the American colonies enjoyed boiled sugar candy in the 17th century. Hard candies started to become popular in the 19th century – especially sweets like peppermints and lemon drops.
2. How is candy made?
The specifics are different for each type of candy, but the basic process is the same: Candy is made by dissolving sugar in water. The level of heat determines what kind of candy results. Hot temperatures make hard candy, medium heat will make soft candy and cool temperatures make chewy candy.
3. Candy corn is the signature candy of Halloween. When was it invented?
George Renninger, who worked for the Wunderlee Candy Company, invented candy corn in 1880. In 1900, the Goelitz Candy Company (now Jelly Belly Candy Company) started producing the tricolor confection. Today, the popular candy is produced by machines, instead of by hand as it was in the early days. It is created from the bottom up – first the yellow layer, then orange and then the white tip. This year, more than 35 million pounds of candy corn will be made. That’s almost 9 billion pieces!
4. Which holiday boasts the highest candy sales?
Not surprisingly, Halloween. Easter, Christmas and Valentine’s Day are close behind. According to the National Confectioners Association, 50 percent of kids said chocolate is their favorite treat to receive on Halloween. Twenty-four percent chose nonchocolate candy, and 10 percent picked gum. (Fruit, salty snacks and baked goods like cookies and granola bars were at the bottom of kids’ lists.) Another Halloween fun fact: Ninety percent of parents admit that they sneak goodies from their kids’ trick-or-treat bags.
5. Is there really a National Chocolate-Covered Cherry Day?
Yup. It’s Jan. 3. And there’s a National Licorice Day (April 12), a National Taffy Day (May 23) and a National Toasted Marshmallow Day (Aug. 30). Are these official commemorative days, sanctioned by Congress? Well, no. But who says we shouldn’t celebrate them anyway?
6. How do most kids eat their candy canes?
Believe it or not, there is research on this topic. In a survey conducted by the National Confectioners Association, 54 percent of kids between 6 and 11 said they like to suck a candy cane. Twenty-four percent bite or crunch the candy and 19 percent lick it. (The other 3 percent of kids either didn’t know or answered something else.)
7. When were lollipops invented?
There is some dispute about who exactly invented lollipops as we know them today. George Smith claimed to have invented the candy-on-a-stick idea in 1908 – he thought a stick would make the candy easier to eat. He named his invention after Lolly Pop, a racing horse, and later trademarked the name. Eventually, Smith stopped making the sweets, and “lollipop” became a generic name. Racine Confectioners Machinery Co. claims to have invented the first lollipop machine around the same time Smith was inventing his lollipop. Their machine could make 40 pieces of the candy per minute. Samuel Born also gets credit with having a hand in the development of lollipops – he invented the Born Sucker machine in California in 1916. San Francisco awarded Born the keys to the city to honor his contribution to candy history. Today’s machines can make about 5,900 lollipops in a minute. The Spangler Candy Company, which makes Dum Dum Pops, produces about 8 million of the bite-size sweets each day.
8. How big was the world’s largest lollipop?
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the world’s largest lollipop weighed 4,759.1 pounds and was made by Franssons of Sweden for a festival on July 27, 2003.
9. How are marshmallows made?
The ancient Egyptians enjoyed a gooey treat made from the mallow plant – a plant that grows wild in marshes. Later, in the 1800s, European candy makers whipped sap from the mallow root into a fluffy candy. But making the marshmallows by hand was a time-consuming process, so candy makers began to modify the system, replacing mallow root with gelatin. In the mid-20th century, the process was modernized again, and the marshmallow ingredients (mostly corn syrup, starch, sugar and water) were run through tubes and then cut into uniform pieces. After those changes were made, marshmallows became extremely popular in the United States. Today, Americans buy about 90 million pounds of marshmallows each year!
10. While we’re talking about marshmallows, where did s’mores come from?