It isn’t always easy to get kids to eat their vegetables, but create a faux candy version and they will eat it by the bushel. Such is the case of candy corn, perhaps the most enduring Halloween confection of all time. The tri-colored kernels of yummy goodness date back well over a century, and in recent years, have received a few makeovers to colorfully coordinate with other popular holidays. But it is the traditional original version that endures, to the tune of 20 million pounds of stuff sold each year – enough that, if each kernel were laid end to end, would supposedly wrap around the earth four times. That’s a lot of corn. Let’s take a closer look at this annual delicacy that seems to bring out the sweet tooth in all of us.
To trace the origins of candy corn, one must travel back to the 1880s, when candy was solely a handmade endeavor. The inventor is unknown, but what is clear is that the Wuderle Candy Company in Philadelphia began mass-producing the product in 1898. While they are no longer in business, another company in Cincinnati, the Goelitz Confectionery Company started making candy corn the same year and continues to produce it to this day. A decade later, Brach’s Confections in Chicago also jumped on the candy corn bandwagon and today is the largest producer of the confection.
So what goes into candy corn to give it its delectable flavor? Plenty of sugar, honey and, of course, corn syrup. These ingredients are cooked into a slurry, then marshmallow and fondant are added to give them their unique soft consistency. Pouring the goo into little corn shaped molds is a three-step process to create the tri-colored appearance of yellow on top, an orange center and a little white tip. While this was all done by hand for decades, machines now handle the duties, but the process itself hasn’t really changed in over a century. Perhaps you would like to witness that process for yourself?
Traditionally, candy corn has always been hauled out by the bushel during Halloween, but that doesn’t mean that other holidays weren’t deserving of a few of these candy kernels as well. A white, orange and brown version, named Indian Corn comes out around Thanksgiving each year. A green, white and red version, dubbed Reindeer Corn serves to give people their fix during the Christmas holidays. And more recently, pink, red and white Cupid corn has been released during Valentine’s Day, as well as pastel Bunny Corn for Easter. Apparently, waiting for Halloween to roll around each year was a little too much for candy corn aficionados.
Strangely enough, other vegetables were considered in the early days, following the success of corn. Candy turnips, for example, were once tried, but failed miserably. Apparently kids have their limits as to which vegetable replicas they will eat by the fistful. So for those waiting for candy brussel sprouts, you’ll just have to keep waiting. Meanwhile, the rest of us will keep shoveling this sugary confection in our mouths, no matter what holiday we are celebrating.
Are you a candy corn aficionado? Do you count the moments until you can put a bowl of the stuff out with a little less guilt, justifying your actions by claiming that you are just “getting into the holiday spirit”? Or, was it the first thing that got tossed in the trash from your trick-or-treat sack? Share your memories of these confectionery kernels with all of us at Retroland, as we pay tribute to the legacy of candy corn.