“Whatever it is I think I see, becomes a Tootsie Roll to me!”
There are few American candies as iconic as a Tootsie Roll. Through two world wars, a great depression and every other milestone of the past century, those little rolls of chewy goodness have been gracing the candy aisle and delighting all that indulge. With their unique flavor and texture, they have stood the test of time, watching many competitors come and go along the way, while the simple Tootsie Roll continues to delight the taste buds of all that indulge.
It was a simple idea – create an inexpensive candy that tastes like chocolate but without a propensity to melt in the hot sun. That was Leo Hirshfield’s goal, way back in 1896, an Austrian immigrant who had set up shop in New York City. He named his creation after his daughter’s nickname, “Tootsie” and began production at his facility, The Sweets Company of America. By 1931, sales were growing consistently when the company added a new addition to their product line, an inexpensive lollipop that featured a lump of his chewy brainchild in the center. Dubbed the Tootsie Pop, it became a favorite confection during the Depression. And when country became engulfed in WWII a few years later, Tootsie Rolls performed their patriotic duty, included in the food rations given to soldiers due to their seeming immunity to heat and humidity.
Tootsie Rolls, which do contain small amounts of cocoa, as well as orange extract (which you might not notice at first bite, but hints of orange do contribute to the candy’s unique flavor) come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Most common are the small individually wrapped candies, which are an annual favorite in kid’s Halloween bags. Then, there are the slightly longer versions that are roughly the size of a cigarette, followed by the more behemoth big rolls, which are similar in size to a candy bar. And while they are aren’t as easy to find anymore, there are also additional flavors of Tootsie Rolls, that are sold in a variety pack and include lemon, lime, orange, cherry and vanilla Tootsie Rolls. The most coveted of the bunch are the vanilla ones, which have a way of disappearing from the bag very quickly and are simply a rare gift from the heavens. If you haven’t tasted them, yes, they are that good.
And, of course, Tootsie Pops are still a favorite, thanks in part to a very successful and well-remembered advertising campaign in the 70s, which pondered the eternal question – how many licks does it take to reach the center of a Tootsie Pop? The wise owl in the commercial probably gave the most accurate answer (“ttthhhrrreee”) because it would seem that few humans have the self-control necessary to enjoy the hard candy coating for more than a couple of minutes, before putting their teeth to the test, and chomping through to get to that scrumptious chewy center.
From their humble beginnings, the company, now known as Tootsie Roll Industries manufactures an astounding 62 million pieces of candy every day, making them one of the most beloved confections of all time, one that can boast a history of well over a hundred years and counting. If you have fond memories of eating these chewy candies as a kid, we welcome your thoughts in our comments section as we tip our hats to this truly American treat.