Many toys have come and gone over the years, but create one that spits out candy every time you play with it and you’ve got a sure winner. Better yet, offer a vast selection of dispensers modeled after just about every pop culture icon to ever exist, each filled to the brim with a stack of yummy fruit-flavored confections, and you’re assured to win the heart of every kid (and collector) in existence. Yes, today our focus is on Pez candy.
The history of Pez dates back almost a century, when Eduard Hass III first created his little peppermint candies, or as the flavor is called in German, “pfefferminz.” He borrowed a few letters from the word and named his confection “Pez”. Originally, the candy was marketed to smokers, and two decades later, the company introduced dispensers as an easy way to carry the mints around. These early generic versions of the dispenser are now referred to simply as “regulars” to those who collect them.
The real breakthrough for Pez came in 1952, when they arrived in America. Focusing their marketing sites on children, the peppermint candy was replaced with fruit flavors and the dispensers were redesigned to include colorful heads at the top. Push the head back and a little brick of candy protruded from the neck area, just begging to be plucked out and consumed. Meanwhile, the mechanism pushed the next candy to the top. Once the candies ran out, it was easy to insert a new stack and start anew. Suffice to say, kids loved them.
The fruit flavors of grape, strawberry, lemon and orange have always been the American standard, but in other parts of the world, tastes are a little more adventurous. You can buy cherry in Canada and Europe, but American kids found that it tasted like cough syrup. Hungary and Thailand have chocolate, and Spain has raspberry and apple flavors. Some health-conscious countries sell IZO Pez, a vitamin-fortified candy. On the other hand, flavors such as anise, coffee, eucalyptus, and flower flavors were never lovingly embraced by the kids of the world, and were, as you might have guessed, mercifully discontinued.
But the candy is only part of the story. It’s the dispensers that have proven so popular over the years. If you can name a pop culture icon, he or she has probably been immortalized in a Pez dispenser. Mickey Mouse, Darth Vader, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Kermit the Frog, you name it – there are over 300 variations and new dispensers continue to be released.
In 1983, Pez opened a U.S. manufacturing facility in Orange, Connecticut, which continues to make the majority of Pez products in the States – to the tune of a billion packages of candy each year. Clearly, Pez is here to stay, as new generations of kids continue to embrace the toy that always has something special to give.
If you are longtime fan of Pez candy, maybe even have your own coveted collection of colorful dispensers, we welcome your memories in our comments section, as we tip our heads back in tribute to this timeless candy and its unforgettable toy dispensers.