Candy corn: from chicken feed to Halloween icon
This year, an estimated 90 billion pounds of candy corn will be sold. How much of that will actually be consumed is much harder to tell, since the triangular candies are seem to warrant a fair amount of disdain when they show up at Halloween. Still, candy corn has lasted over 100 years, and many people have come to feel they’re part of the holiday, even though the original design was tied to feed for livestock, not people.
In 1898, the Goelitz Confectionary Company started selling a candy meant to evoke corn kernels. At the time, corn was considered something more appropriate for birds than humans, and so the candy, appropriately named “Chicken feed” would be the kind of fun thing to catch consumers eye and imagination. The look of the candy was very important, and the three bands of color were quite exciting to the public. This was accomplished in three slow rounds of pouring the slurried ingredients into molds, a process that made production relatively slow.
Continued corn syrup legacy
The extra time was worth it, as the distinct look of candy corn it helped fend off competitors for many years. Similarly flavored turnips, clovers and chestnuts just didn’t catch on the same way, helping solidify Goelitz’s place in the market. This dominance in mellowcreme candy was only shaken by disaster, when in 1950 a factory in New Jersey burned down while prepping for the Halloween rush. Likely sparked by flammable cornstarch, the fire created a temporary shortage in candy corn deliveries which was happily addressed by competitors.
Today, the Goelitz Confectionary Company has changed its name to Jelly Belly, and also produces jelly beans, while other companies continue to compete in the market for everyone’s “favorite” Halloween candy. While the advent of sealed plastic bags in the 1940s allowed candy corn to be shipped farther and stored longer, it’s now mostly considered a Halloween treat, with its official holiday being on October 30th each year.
Bonus takeaway: There is a way to actually enjoy candy corn, and that’s if you mix it in equal parts with salted peanuts, which I say as someone who previously hated these things. If you get a bag of them at Halloween, making them part of this basic snack mix saves them from the garbage can.
Source: The Surprising History of Candy Corn by Jessica Prokop, Candy Favorites.com