Do you know your classic Halloween candy history?
Candy corn is HOW old? And other factoids about our favourite treats
Every Halloween, there are innovations in candy — new twists on shapes and flavours wrapped in ghoulish gimmicks. But, as any tenured trick-or-treater will tell you, nothing comes close to those classic Halloween snacks you've been chewing all your life — but how did they come to be? Well, in appreciation of our All Hallow's Eve hunger, here's some history behind some of your favourite Halloween treats.
The yellow, orange and white standby was not always even called "candy corn". Invented in Philadelphia, by candymaker George Renninger, the kernel-shaped treat was originally referred to as "chicken feed", as a twist on marketing to farming communities. By the 20th century, candy corn was more prominently manufactured by the Goelitz Confectionery Company (now known as Jelly Belly), while the process and ingredients have remained largely the same. Each piece is a mixture of mainly sugar, corn syrup and wax, heated, moulded and coloured to create the classic look, though now machine-made instead of hand-crafted. There are an ever-growing number of variations in colour and taste for other holidays like Easter and Valentine's Day, but with the traditional corn harvest being in October and November, it will forever remain an apropos Halloween delight.
Though everyone is familiar with these stacks of pellet candy in twisty wrappers, they were originally called Smarties and have a unique, semi-Canadian origin. The candies were first made in England, after the First World War, via repurposed gunpowder pellet machines. In the 1940's, Edward Dee immigrated to New Jersey to continue making his candy there, then opening Canadian production in 1963 on Queen St. West in Toronto. In 1988, the Canadian factory moved to Newmarket, where they produce over a billion candies annually. Though they are still called Smarties in the United States, they are known as Rockets in Canada, to avoid any confusion with Nestle's boxed chocolates of the same name.
Though you may think of foiled chocolate when you hear Kisses, you've most definitely seen this other kind before — those hard molasses squares in those Halloween-coloured wax wrappers. They have proven to be divisive in Canada. The molasses Kisses was first offered by Kerr's, a candy company founded in Canada by Scottish immigrants in 1895. While they were first in the market of Scottish-branded treats, the 1940's saw them produce the Kisses, mainly a mixture of corn syrup, sugar and molasses that is actually vegan, gluten free, Kosher and Halal. Distinct in their retro-Halloween packaging and nostalgic taste, the Molasses Kisses have stood the time as a Canadian Halloween candy.
Though the red version seems to be most-beloved compared to the divisive black original, the two have very little in common. While licorice the plant's history can be traced through Egypt, Rome, southern Asia, the Middle East and England (where the root was extracted and made into sweets), red licorice is licorice in name only.
An orange, peanut-shaped marshmallow that inexplicably tastes like a banana would naturally have an equally confusing history. While there's no definitive answer of just how it came to be, one possible history traces back to 19th Century America, likely as an offshoot of the big top's usual offerings of candy and peanuts. They are also thought to be among the first penny candy and 5 and dime stores, first only sold in the Spring, but with the advent of cellophane wrapping, became a year-round treat. Though there have been many variations on colour, shape and flavour, the original combination is the most enduring. If your circus peanuts are ever stale, a quick hack is to microwave them for 8-10 seconds to regain their original squish.
Wax soda bottles
This prohibition-era treat was originally made as a cheeky follow up to wax lips. Now mainly produced by Tootsie Roll Industries, they are known as Nik-L-Nips — getting their name from their original price (a nickel) and the suggested opening strategy of nipping the bottle top to drink the liquid (or perhaps a "nip of whisky") before chewing the rest of the wax bottle like gum.
While tree resin-chewing has been traced back to the Ancient Greeks, the first bubble gum is actually Dubble Bubble. Invented in 1928 by Fleer Company accountant, Walter E. Diemer, who stumbled upon a failed recipe by Fleer's founder and tweaked it to become something closer to the chew we all know. The factory had only pink food colouring at the time, which is the sole reason for its best-know appearance. Bubble gum became an instant hit (and earliest editions even contained classic comic strips) but, during World War II, due to the scarcity of latex and sugar, production was paused from 1942 to 1951.
The history of the candy apple allegedly dates back to 1908 New Jersey, when candy store owner William W. Kolb was experimenting with a red cinnamon Christmas candy and decided to dip apples in the mixture to display in his store window. While the first ones were sold for 5 cents, the quickly became a sought after treat, sold at circuses and shops along the Jersey Shore. Interestingly, caramel apples don't follow the same lineage and were actually invented separately. In the 1950s, Kraft Foods employee Dan Walker was similarly experimenting but with leftover melted caramels from Halloween. While it continues to be an autumn and Halloween staple, thanks to the September/October apple harvest season, there are now countless versions of the souped-up fruit, whether it's the classic red, pumpkin spice or even mummified melted chocolate.