Candy: The Trivia and History of Our Favorite Sweets

Grocery stores devote an entire aisle to this sweet treat. For certain holidays, it is the perfect gift. Halloween is the number one holiday in candy sales, followed by Easter, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day. According to the National Confectioners Association, Americans will consume about 25 pounds of candy during a year. Although Americans love their candy, the people of Denmark will eat the most candy with 36 pounds per person. Yes, candy is ranked as one of America’s favorite sweet treats.

Basic Candy Recipe

The basic candy recipe is made simply by dissolving sugar and water and then heating it. With high heat, hard candy is made, with medium heat, soft candy, and with cool temperatures, chewy candy is made.

Brief History of Candy

Cavemen who ate the honey from bee hives were the first to sample candy. Recorded history traces candy to the Egyptians 3,500 years ago who along with the Arabs and Chinese combined fruit and nuts with honey. During the Middle Ages, candy was a product available only to the wealthy as sugar was expensive. Cacao, which provided a new flavor for candy, was discovered in 1519 by explorers in Mexico. During the 1700’s, boiled sugar candies were popular in the American colonies and by 1800 more than 380 American factories were producing “penny candy.” Milk chocolate was created by Switzerland’s David Peter who added milk and created the first milk chocolate in 1876. A wide variety of sweets including bars, chewable, and hard candies have been produced.

Candy Trivia

In 1868, Richard Cadbury introduced the first Valentine’s Day box of candy when he decorated a candy box with a painting of his daughter and her kitten.

Nearly 2 billion candy canes will be sold in the four weeks prior to Christmas.

In 1920, the Baby Ruth, which is named for President Grover Cleveland daughter, was introduced.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups were launched and named for the man who invented the candy in 1928.

The scientific name for the cacao tree’s fruit is “Theobroma Cacao” which means “food of the gods.”

Lollipops

There are many stories regarding the origin of the lollipop, but it surely has been around since the 1800’s as the hard candy with no stick was mentioned by Charles Dickens.

The claim of inventing the modern lollipop went to George Smith in 1908. He thought to put a stick into the hard candy so that it could be eaten easily. He named the confection lollipop after his favorite horse, Lolly Pop. The first machine to mass produce lollipops made 40 per minute. Today’s machines can make 5,900 per minute. These treats have had many different looks over the years.

Lollipops are made by combining sugar and corn syrup and then adding flavors and colors. A press forms the head of the lollipop and adds a stick. When cooled, the pops are wrapped and bagged for sale.

The world’s largest lollipop was made on June 25, 2002. It weighed 4,031 pounds with the stick and it was 18 inches thick and about 15 feet tall.

Cotton Candy

Cotton candy, or “fairy floss” as it once was called, is a popular sweet found at amusement parks and festivals. The only ingredient is sugar. Although several people have claimed to discover cotton candy, the first machine was patented in 1899 by Wharton and Morrison. The machines used centrifugal force to spin and weave sugar through tiny holes creating threads. These machines were unreliable and in 1949, Gold Medal Products produced a machine that transformed the cotton candy industry due to its reliability. In America, National Cotton Candy Day is December 7.

In making cotton candy, sugar is melted, spun in a liquid state and pulled through tiny holes where it cools and becomes a solid again. The threads are then wound around a stick.

Conversation Hearts

The early colonists made candy with love notes scratched on them. Daniel Chase in 1860 expanded on this idea and created candy wrapped in paper with printed sayings. In 1900, Sweet Hearts were created with the saying directly printed on the candy. The familiar “Be Mine” and “Kiss Me” are found on the candy hearts which are a popular Valentine’s Day treat. Generally about 8 billion candy hearts are made each year.

Sugar, colors, and other ingredients are mixed into dough. A machine flattens it, stamps a message, and cuts the dough into hearts. The candy is then dried and boxed.

Candy Corn

Candy Corn has been available for over one hundred years. Invented by George Reinninger in the 1880’s, the tri-color design was unique and people were excited about the new candy. When first made, it took many men to make this candy. Today, it is easier with machines. The candy is made in layers with the orange part first followed by yellow and then white topping placed in triangular molds. Once cooled, the candy is ready to be packaged. Today, not only is candy corn made this way, but candy reindeer for Christmas, bunny corn for Easter and cupid corn for Valentine’s Day also are popular forms. Over 35 million pounds of candy corn will be made this year-about 9 billion pieces.

Chocolate Bars

Early chocolate bars were made of a bittersweet chocolate and it was not until 1875 when David Peter and Henry Nestle added evaporated milk to chocolate that milk chocolate was created. It is the preferred flavor of 80% of Americans. Soon other ingredients were being added such as caramel and peanuts. It was not until WWI when the US Army Quartermaster ordered 20 to 40 pound blocks of candy to be shipped to our soldiers that candy bars were really noticed by the public. After the war, candy bars were an established sweet with over 40,000 different bars made in the coming years.

In summary, candy continues as a popular treat with 99% of households purchasing candy at least once a week as reported by the National Confectioners Association. This sweet treat has become a traditional element of American holiday celebrations.

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