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Candy Corn Hasn’t Changed Since the 19th Century

The Halloween sweet was invented in the 1880s

(Robert Marien/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

Whether you love it or hate it, candy corn has been a Halloween favorite for more than a century. This year, candy companies like Brach's and Jelly Belly will manufacture about 35 million tons of the waxy candy; 15 million tons will be bought this week alone, according to the National Confectioners Association. American trick-or-treaters will take home roughly 4 billion kernels of candy corn on Halloween night.

Candy corn wasn't always a Halloween snack, as Rebecca Rupp writes for National Geographic. It was invented in the 1880s by a man named George Renninger, who worked for the Wunderle Candy Company. Another company, the Goelitz Confectionery Company—now known as the Jelly Belly Candy Company—bought the recipe in 1898 and sold it as "Chicken Feed." Rupp writes:

As Chicken Feed, candy corn was intended to appeal to Americans' largely agricultural roots. At the turn of the 20th century, the country was still largely rural, and about half the nation's labor force lived on farms. Confectioners, hoping to tie in to the farm-and-harvest spirit, also turned out candy pumpkins, turnips, chestnuts, and clover leaves.

At first, candy corn was laboriously made by hand, with each colored layer poured separately into a kernel-shaped mold. Though the process is automated today, Tanya Pai reports for Vox, the recipe is essentially the same as it was in the late 19th century.  Brach's, the largest candy corn maker, uses a formula made of "sugar, corn syrup, confectioner's glaze, salt, dextrose, gelatin, sesame oil, artificial flavor, honey, Yellow 6, Yellow 5, and Red 3."

So, what makes a person love (or loathe) the controversial sweet? A person's preference may come down when she grew up, Robert Klara writes for Adweek. As trick-or-treating became a Halloween tradition, so did candy corn. "There's no question that candy corn is iconic for the baby boomer who grew up looking forward to the once-a-year Halloween treat," Phil Lempert, a food marketing expert, tells Klara. "The question is whether it is still as relevant today for millennials and Gen Z."

Even though candy corn hate can be seen everywhere from cartoons to Twitter, a recent survey by the National Confectioners Association found 13 percent of Americans say its their favorite Halloween candy. While the haters may rail against candy corn, the sweet treat isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

About Danny Lewis

Danny Lewis is a multimedia journalist working in print, radio, and illustration. He focuses on stories with a health/science bent and has reported some of his favorite pieces from the prow of a canoe. Danny is based in Brooklyn, NY.

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