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Most people in the United States may believe that candy corn, those tiny tri-colored triangle-shaped candies, are specific to Halloween. It wasn’t always so though…
Candy corn was invented in the 1880s by George Renninger of the Wunderlee Candy Company. Its novel tricolor design was hit with the public. It was originally a harvest time treat available for just a few short months of the year due to an extremely laborious manufacturing process. According to the National Confectionery Association, it took many people several months of the year to manufacture the candy:
“Sugar, corn syrup and other ingredients were cooked into a slurry in large kettles. Fondant and marshmallow were added to give a smooth texture and bite. The 45 pounds of warm candy was poured into buckets called runners. Men dubbed stringers walked backwards pouring the candy into cornstarch trays imprinted with the kernel shape. It took three passes to make the white, yellow and orange colors. Originally, candy corn was delivered by wagon in wooden boxes, tubs, and cartons.”
By the turn of the turn of the 20th century, candy corn manufacturing like so many other things became mechanized. Confectionery companies were now able to quickly manufacture the candy in mass quantities and offer it year round. At this time, the United States was transitioning from a mainly agrarian economy to an industrial one. Spurred perhaps a sense of nostalgia at the time, reminders of our former farming culture were all the rage. The confectionery industry responded in the 1920s. Candy corn was nicknamed “chicken feed”, packaged in boxes adorned with rooster prints, and offered year-round.
It wasn’t until the 1950s when candy corn’s association with Halloween was solidified and individually wrapped packets of candy corn were used for trick-or-treating. The candy went back to being a seasonal item available only around Halloween.
Nowadays, candy corn is once again offered year round. While Halloween is clearly its most popular season, other holiday variations such as red and green as well as spring palettes are just a few of the many variations now available.
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