Every October, when the weather cools, we recognize that it’s time to start arguing about candy corn. But whether you think the little tri-colored candies are delicious or disgusting, no other candy is more iconic of Halloween.
The history of candy corn and its place as a part of Halloween dates back more than a century ago. Though nobody knows for sure, candy corn is said to have been invented in Philadelphia by George Renninger, a candymaker for the Wunderle Candy Company.
In 1898, George’s recipe rose to nationwide popularity when the Goelitz Confectionary Company picked it up and started marketing it as “Chicken Feed.” The candy packages pictured a rooster and a tag line that read, “Something worth crowing for.”
The initial marketing was intended to appeal to Americans’ agricultural roots, and it was touted as a year-round treat.
The Goelitz company, now known as Jelly Belly Candy Co., has the longest history in the industry of making candy corn. In the early years, men dubbed stringers would walk backwards pouring the recipe mixture into candy trays — making one pass for each color. The process is now done by machine.
Although the method has changed over the years, the recipe has stayed the same. It uses just eight ingredients and three colorings: various sugars, fondant, corn syrup, vanilla, and marshmallow creme and colors yellow, orange and white.
The mix is then pressed into kernel-shaped molds.
The National Confectioners Association sites a “lack of machinery” as to why the candy corn became known a seasonal treat decades ago. Manufacturers would gear up in late August and continue making the candy through the fall.
One 2013 poll shows that most people today prefer to eat chocolate on Halloween (72%), but candy corn came in a respectable second place (12%), followed by other favorites like gummy candy, chewy candies, hard candy, lollipops, licorice, and gum and mints.
As far as Halloween candies go, candy corn is one of the least offensive nutrition wise. A handful of candy corn contains only 140 calories and 28 grams of sugar. Each piece of candy corn has about 7 calories.
Today, candy corn has its own holiday on the annual food calendar. Not surprisingly, it’s October 30.
But candy corn isn’t just for Halloween anymore. Candy makers have introduced different colors corresponding to holidays like Easter, Valentine’s Day, and Christmas, and they’ve introduced different flavors too, like peppermint and pumpkin spice.
Despite its many detractors, we manage to consume a lot of candy corn. According to the National Confectioners Association, more than 35 million pounds of candy corn will be produced this year — that’s 9 billion kernels of candy! Most of it is sold on October 28 — you procrastinators, you!
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