In late September, Candystore.comTo determine the most loved Halloween candy, we compared its sales. The top 10 candies weren’t surprising, but the breakdown of the favorites by state offered some interesting results. For instance, Ohio’s favorite Halloween candy is Blow Pops. In Montana, it’s Dubble Bubble Gum; Georgia’s fav is Swedish Fish and Lemonheads for Louisiana. These four candies did not make the top ten for the country.
Here are those list toppers in order of popularity, least first, with morsels of their sweet—and not-so-sweet —origins mixed in.
10 Candy Corn
If you’re scratching your head as to how candy corn made the top 10 in popularity, you are not alone. But the statistics don’t lie. According to the National Confectioners Association, 35 million pounds worth of candy corn is sold around Halloween. That’s nine billion kernels of candy corn sold, and if they were laid end-to-end, they’d circle the Earth more than four times.
This candy is most popular and controversial of all the confections on this list. It is either loved or hated by people, with the majority of the population favoring the former. It is also the oldest candy on the list, which may explain its popularity. For most (52%), candy corn is a tradition, and Halloween cannot come and go without a bowl of it—sometimes with peanuts mixed in—sitting out for guests to graze on—followed by the traditional dumping of most of the bowl into the trash at Thanksgiving.
Buttercreams were a variety of candies that were available in the late 1800s. These buttercreams were usually made from candies inspired by agriculture or nature like clover, chestnuts, turnips, and so on. These confections were created to appeal to farmers in a country where agriculture was still a major part of life. Candy corn was also agrarian-inspired and was layered with bright colors.
George Renninger worked 68 of his 87-years at Philip Wunderle Candy Company. He is usually credited for creating candy corn sometime around the 1880s. Renninger’s recipe called for melting corn syrup, fondant, vanilla, sugar, and marshmallow crème into a candy slurry, dividing and coloring them—yellow, orange, and white—then pouring them into triangular molds one color at a time. The candy will meld together layers when it cools inside the mold. The stringers, who were responsible for pouring the colored slurry into the molds, had to do this manually. Although candy corn production is now automated, the process of making it has remained largely unchanged.
Recently, there has been some controversy about the best way to eat candy popcorn. The NCA surveyed candy corn consumers and found that 47% of them ate the whole confection in one gulp. 43% ate it layer-by–layer, starting with white tip. Only tenths of the people who ate it started with the yellow end, which is wider.
9 Tootsie Pops
Tootsie Pops has been a mystery for a long time. No, I’m not talking about the number of licks it takes to reach the Tootsie Roll center, but we’ll get to that. It is still a mystery why a Native American has been featured on Tootsie Pop wrappers since 1931, when the candy was first introduced. The man (or boy?) The man (boy?) wears a traditional headdress. He points a bow & arrow at a star.
Snopes.com reports that only 30% of Tootsie Pops contain the icon on their wrappers. Its relative rarity has led some to believe that these Tootsie Pops may be a rare find. “special” wrappersCan be used to redeem for a prize. While some candy companies back in the 1930s had promotions where kids could mail in a certain number of wrappers for prizes, the creators of Tootsie Pops—Sweets Company of America and later Tootsie Roll Industries (TRI)—have never been one of those companies.
TRI claims that 150 children still send them these wrappers in their letters, hoping to win a prize. Since 1982, the company has sent them a consolation note with a short story of a Native-American who appears in the room of the Tootsie Pop creator and offers him the secret to making a new lollipop shape. When the inventor agrees, the Native-American shoots an arrow at a star, destroying it so that the inventor could be inspired by the moon’s shape to make a round lollipop. Although the story is charming, it’s not very satisfying, especially if one was expecting a prize. Nor is the company’s other explanation for the icon: the star is a symbol for luck. That doesn’t explain what the Native-American signifies. Better is to just be curious. It generates a lot of publicity.
TRI has a long history of using mystery to promote Tootsie Pops. Enter a cartoon owl in 1970, sitting on a branch when a boy delivers the question for the ages: “How many licks does it take to reach the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?” Fifty years later, and still, there is no definitive answer, but not for lack of trying.
Purdue University engineers created a licking device with a tongue that is modeled after the one found in a human’s mouth. It takes on average 364 licks. An engineering doctorate student from the University of Michigan built his licking machine and was able to come up with 411 licks. Other studies have shown that it takes anywhere from 144 up to 2,500 licks. The commercial’s narrator was right: we may never know.
Franklin C. Mars, the creator of Snickers, was stricken as a child with polio and spent hours in his mother’s kitchen learning to make candy and hand-dipped chocolate. By age 21, Frank supported a wife, Ethel, and son, Forrest, by selling wholesale candies, Taylor’s Molasses Chips, to shops around the Minneapolis/St. Paul. But the market was so oversaturated that Frank’s venture failed. Ethel divorced Frank in 1910 and gained full custody of Forrest. She then promptly sent the 8-year old to Saskatchewan, Canada with her parents. Frank would never see his son again in the years to come.
Frank tried to make a fresh start by marrying another Ethel. He then moved to Tacoma in Washington, where he tried making his own candy. After that failed, Frank and Ethel moved back home to Minneapolis where Frank opened a basket candy business with Patricia Chocolates. Two years later, they were making enough money to incorporate, and produced the Mar-O-Bar.
Forrest, a traveling salesman for Camel cigarettes, was arrested in Chicago in 1923 for illegally posting cigarette ads. Frank helped his son escape jail and they went to a soda shop. While drinking a chocolate malt, Forrest asked his father why he hadn’t produced a chocolate-malted candy bar. Thus was born the Milky Way, and within a year, Frank’s Mar-O-Bar Company’s revenue jumped 10-foldTheir gross was $20,000,000 ($273 million) by 1928.
Frank and Ethel indulged in all the money they received, buying a 3,000-acre farm, Tennessee, for Ethel’s breeding horses. They named it Milky Way. Frank finally introduced the milky way after three years of experimentation. Snickers in 1930, named after Ethel’s favorite horse (that had recently died). Snickers is the most popular candy bar in America, and around the globe. It was there until 2020 when it was behind Hershey bars in terms of sales (394 million dollars in America versus 381 million worldwide). This is still translated into 15 million Snicker barsEvery day.
7 Hershey Kisses
Although most people believe Milton Hershey was the inventor of these little chocolate drops, his version was actually a replica of Wilbur Buds, which Henry Oscar Wilbur published in 1894. Wilbur Buds, however, were produced by pouring melted chocolate into tear-shaped molds and leaving them to solidify, each with “Wilbur” imprinted on their flat bottoms.
Hershey, known as the Henry Ford of candy world, had already automated production of Hershey Bars (released around 1900) and discovered that the teardrop shape can be achieved by simply squirting the chocolate onto flat surfaces. Soon after its introduction in 1907, Hershey’s confection began outselling Wilbur’s, and the latter tried to sue Hershey to stop production. Unsuccessfully. Wilbur Buds can still be purchased online.
For the first 14 year of production, Kisses had to be wrapped in silver foil. In 1921, the process was automated and the tissue paper tag or plumb were added simultaneously. In 1962, Hershey’s Kisses became among the first candies to change their packaging (red and green) for Christmas. No one is sure why Hershey called his creation Kisses, but historians point out that candies packaged in paper with a twist had been called “kisses” since the 1820s, and the 1856 Webster’s Dictionary defines a kiss—aside from the affectionate smooch—as “a small piece of confectionary.” So common is the word that it wasn’t until 2001 that Hershey was able to trademark his “Kisses,” and only after the company surveyed the public to find that most people associated the word with their product.
6 Sour Patch Kids
If you can get past the fact that you’re eating a human kid-shaped candy, Sour Patch Kids (SPK) will reward you with first a sour, tangy taste, then a sweet one. Because the confection is a tartaric- and citric acid-coated gummy, it does this. The acids contain protons activated saliva, which is registered as a “smell” on the tongue. strong sour taste. The sugar-sweet gum is gone once the coating has dissolved. It’s the coating, however, that makes it a target for tampering. In 2015, Florida drug dealers rolled gummies in a layer of Flakka—a synthetic drug that causes hallucinations—to make them pass for SPK.
SPK was created by Frank Galatolie in the 1970s, when he was working for Jaret International of Ontario. The confection was then taken south to the United States in 1985. It was renamed Sour Patch Kids in order to take advantage the Cabbage Patch Kids craze. The shapes were altered to be more kid-like, and the new packaging sported a blonde boy with his tongue hanging out, based on Galatolie’s son, Scott.
SPK isn’t the only candy that can be found in cereals, but it might be the only one that makes milk taste sour. SPK isn’t the only candy that can flavor ice cream, and certainly not all candy that can be found in video games. SPK may not be the only candy that can go into beer. Mob Craft Beer introduces Sour Catch, which is a Belgian pale ale with SPK.
5 Hot Tamales
Hot, spicy candy isn’t for everybody’s tastebuds, but spicy-lovers are very loyal to certain candies, Hot Tamales among them. Hot Tamales, a cinnamon-flavored candy, has been a mainstay in movie theaters since 1950. Although Hot Tamales have been around for more than 80 years, they are far from being the first cinnamon-based candy. Cinnamon contains a chemical known as cinnamaldehyde which is a skin irritating agent that makes the tongue register as hot. In the Bible, Cinnamon is mentioned. Egyptian hieroglyphics, and in Sanskrit literatures. In 19th century, cinnamon flavoring was introduced to medicine and candy. Red Hots, which were introduced 18 years prior to Hot Tamales, remain its primary competitor.
Recently, candy has been made more hot, more painfully so, that it registers on the Scoville Hotness Scale. The Scoville Scale measures the capsaicin—another chemical irritant—in food, typically peppers. A bell pepper has zero Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) and a jalapeno is between 2,500-8,000 SHUs. U.S.-grade pepper spray can reach up to 5.3 million SHUs. Since Hot Tamales do not have capsaicin, the Scoville Scale cannot measure them, but one blogger says a Hot Tamales’ heat was equivalent to a Poblano Pepper, about 1,000 to 1,500 SHUs.
The blogger also said that the most recent version was even better. Hot Tamales Firewas equivalent to a Seranno Pepper, or 10,000 to 23,000 sHUs. Atomic Fireballs, which were introduced in 1954, contains capsaicin. They register 3,500 SHUs. The candy is known as the “hottest” in the world. Toe of Satan lollipopThe chile extract is nine million SHUs.
In November 1938, Marcus Pfeffer was a Jewish physician operating out of his Vienna, Austria, home when a friend warned him of an impending one-night pogrom, where Hitler’s fanatical paramilitary (the SA) was to attack and destroy synagogues and Jewish property throughout Germany and Austria. Later known as Kristallnacht (“Crystal Night”), hundreds of synagogues and thousands of Jewish businesses were burned and destroyed, while tens of thousands of men were arrested and sent to concentration camps.
Jewish homes—including Pfeffer’s—were ransacked and valuables stolen. Marcus reached out to an English relative to act as sponsor or guarantor for the family over the next two-months. So Dr. Pfeffer left his wife Betty and their three-year old son Peter behind and fled hours before he was due to be taken into custody and sent to Dachau. The family waited in Zurich for arrangements to be made before they could board the plane for London for ten more days. They were still living in London at the time that Germany began bombing London. The attack destroyed their apartment building while they were on holiday to Bansbury. The Pfeffers decided that they would stay in Bansbury.
Peter became a journalist shortly after the war. moving into advertising. Mars, Inc., England, developed little squares with soft fruit-flavored taffy. In 1959, they held a contest for a name. When he submitted the contest, he changed his name from Peter to Phillips. He was a copywriter at the Masius Wynne-Williams advertising agency.
He won five pounds with the new name, Opal Fruits. The name lasted nearly 30 years in Europe, but when Mars took the candy to America, Mars called it M&M’s Fruit Chewies, followed by Starburst a few years later. Although the name Opal Fruits is still used occasionally, Starburst was adopted by Europe in 1998.
We’ve already talked about Frank and Forrest Mars, and after Forrest came up with the idea for Milky Way, Frank began to groom his son to take over the Mars Company. Frank gave Forrest $50,000 and the foreign rights to Milky Way, but father and son got into a fight in 1932. Forrest went to Switzerland to learn how to make chocolate and worked for chocolate companies throughout Europe. Ethel, Frank’s widow, took over Mars, Inc. in 1934 after he suffered from heart failure.
Forrest had already moved to York, England to work for H.I. Rowntree and Company were instrumental in the introductions of Kit Kat bars. Frank also opened a factory in Slough, England that produced a sweeter version the Milky Way, the Mars Bar. In 1937, Rowntree began making small chocolate beads in a hard-shell called Smarties. These Smarties were not to be confused with the tart Smarties that are available today. They were then put in the rations for British soldiers fighting in the Spanish Civil War. The hard shell protected the chocolate from melting during summer heat. Forrest realized that chocolate sales drop during the summer months. He also saw the potential for these small, portable candies.
Forrest returned to America, filed for a patent for his borrowed idea, and received the patent in march 1941. Forrest did not return to his widowed stepmother nor the Mars Company and instead formed his own company. World War II broke out in America later that year along with rationing, and Hershey’s Co. had control of all rationed chocolate in the country. So Forrest invited Bruce Murrie, son of Hershey’s president William Murrie, to join him in starting the Mars & Murrie Company, M&M for short. Their product would be made with Hershey’s chocolate. Initially, M&M’s were offered exclusively to the U.S. Armed Forces. But as vets returned home, they brought word of the candy to civilians, and by the end of the war, M&M had an expanding market. Even today, Mars still donates M&M’s to America’s MRE program.
Bruce Murrie saw something after the war that many would soon confirm: Forrest Mars was difficult and frustrating to work with. Frank was well-known for his volcanic temper, tirades and willingness to throw candy at glass windows just because he found one that was mis-wrapped. Murrie was humiliated by Forrest in front of his employees. Eventually, Murrie sold his 20% share to Forrest for a paltry 1 million. When Murrie tried to return to Hershey’s, he was snubbed because of his partnership with a competitor.
Forrest also tried to gain control of his father’s company, but it wasn’t until his stepmother died in late 1945 which gave Forrest 50% of her stock that he returned to Mars, Inc. He brought with him not just M&Ms, but his Mars Bar (the American version has almonds).
Skittles are shaped like M&M’s and even sport a letter (S) just like its chocolate cousin. And it’s currently produced by the William Wrigley Jr. Company, a subsidiary of—you guessed it—M&M’s producer, Mars, Inc. But in taste, the two couldn’t be more different. Even when the two cross into each other’s flavors—such as the Chocolate Mix Skittles in 2007 and the Key Lime Pie M&M’s of the last couple of years—they each retain their distinctive flavors.
Skittles were invented by a British company, but no one seems to know. However, there’s a story circulating the Internet about the inventor, “Mr. Skittles,” looking up in the sky and spying a rainbow, then wondered what a rainbow would taste like. He experimented for three more years to create rainbow-flavored candy.
If this seems like the plot to an ad campaign, that’s because it is, originating from the 1994 “Taste the Rainbow” campaign. Named Skittles, this name is most likely a reference to the indoor bowling game Skittles or European lawn. Skittles uses heavy balls that are usually larger than a bowling or tennis ball. In 1979, the Yanks tried the rainbow for the first time.
1 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
The origins of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups arise from the fertility of its creator, Harry Burnett (H.B.) Reese. H.B. and his wife, Blanche Edna Hyson, had 16 children (that poor woman)—eight boys and eight girls—13 of whom lived to adulthood. For the first two decades of their marriage, H.B searched for a job he’d find fulfilling while supporting his expanding household.
He found farming, fishing, and working in factories unfulfilling, but he still worked two to three jobs to make ends work. Those ends were rarely met. While working at one of Hershey Chocolate Company’s dairy farms, he noticed how lucrative the candy-making businessIt could be. “If Hershey can sell a trainload of chocolate every day, I can at least make a living making candy,” he later said.
In 1921, Blanche’s father bought a larger home for the Reese family in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and H.B. Blanche began to work in the Hershey factory. He also made and sold confections in the basement of his house. They began small by making mints, hard candy, and chocolate-covered raisins, which were sold directly to drug and department stores. H.B. invented a chocolate-covered caramel and coconut candy he dubbed the “Lizzie Bar” after his oldest daughter, Mary Elizabeth. Mary Elizabeth would recall her father’s habit of going to the basement at three in the morning to crack open coconuts, then peeling and grating them. Johnny, her brother, also had a candy bar named for him.
By 1926, H.B.’s candies were making enough money for him to quit his job at Hershey’s and move the operation from his basement to a factory. H.B. died two years later. H.B. developed peanut butter cups in a package of candies that included coconut cream, caramel and honeydew, peppermint crème, nougat and nuttees, peanuts and clusters, and chocolate jets. Mary Elizabeth was a hand-coated Hershey chocolate layer on various marble slabs. After that, the chocolate was allowed to set in small paper cups. H.B. To entice people to come into the store and taste their confections, H.B.
The peanut butter cup was so popular by 1935 that it was sold separately. After World War II, H.B. to produce his Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups exclusively. H.B. His sons, H.B. Today that stock is worth $1 billion, in part because Reese’s tops many lists as the most favored Halloween candy.