Though Valentine’s Day is not America’s most candy-centric holiday (that’s Halloween), it’s a close runner up. Boxed chocolates have been a popular gift on February 14th since the late 19th century, and the sugary repertoire has expanded to include such sweets as conversation hearts, pink and red M&Ms, chocolate roses and more. So what better occasion to muse on confectionery innovation with a look at some of the strangest and most interesting candy-related patents from the United States Patent and Trademark Office?
The Machine That Brought Us Sweethearts
In the late 1840s, Boston pharmacist Oliver R. Chase invented and patented a machine meant to roll sugar paste to a high polish, stamp it with a design and cut it into shapes. His “Lozenge-Machine” is believed to be the first patented American candy machine. Two decades later, Oliver’s brother, Daniel Chase, figured out how to use vegetable dye to print words or images on the candy. The Chases used their improved lozenge machine to print wedding favor candies with phrases like “Married in Pink, He will take to drink” and “Married in White, You have chosen right.” In the early 1900s, Chase’s company, by then part of the New England Candy Company (NECCO) conglomeration, began cutting and printing the candies in the heart shapes we now know as Sweethearts. While NECCO has updated some of the Sweethearts’ sayings for the modern world (“Fax Me,” “Email Me” and “Tweet Me” have all made the rounds as technology has changed), originals remain. “Kiss Me” and “Be Mine” never go out of style.
A Candy For All the Senses
In 2011, Turkish inventor Tolga Erden filed a patent for a method for creating solid popping candy, previously thought to be impossible. Experts believed only granular popping candy, like Pop Rocks, was possible, since solidifying the candy would cause it to lose its fizz. The invention worked by introducing carbon dioxide to the hot candy mixture than cooling it, pulling it into a rope shape, cutting it and pressing it into molds. It’s then placed in an airtight reactor and treated with more carbon dioxide as it cools. The resulting product is a solid lozenge or lollipop that snaps and crackles as it’s being sucked. Erden introduced the sweet, which he calls SoundyCandy, in early 2015. Unlike Pop Rocks, SoundyCandy lasts for up to 10 minutes. So give you sweetheart what SoundyCandy promises will be “simultaneous stimulation of all five senses” this Valentine’s Day.
Print Your Own Chocolate
The past few years have brought a slew of sugar-centric 3D printing machines. There’s the ChefJet from 3D Systems, which can print out customized hard candies, gummies, logo-shaped fondant and more. Also from 3D Systems, in conjunction with Hershey’s, is the CocoJet, which debuted in 2015 and creates any shape of dark, milk or white chocolate. In 2012, Xerox patented a method for 3D printing chocolate as well, which claims to produce a more resilient, heat-resistant, better-textured 3D printed chocolate by carefully controlling the chocolate temperature as each layer is added. If acquiring your own 3D candy printer is not in your future, you can visit a location of the Magic Candy Factory in Berlin, a 3D gummy printing store where you can design your own creation and see it printed before your eyes. A gummy rose for Valentine’s Day? A gummy engagement ring?
Interactive Video Sweets
Regular ol’ cakes and candy not quite special enough for your sweetheart? In 2009, Disney filed a patent for “Projector systems and methods for producing digitally augmented, interactive cakes and other food products.” Basically, it’s a projector with depth sensors that projects a video onto a cake, large candy or other food item, interacting with the food’s topography to create a kind of 3D food movie. For example, a castle-shaped cake might have an overlaid video of knights on horseback and princesses standing in the tower windows. The system can sense changes in the food's topography and modify the images accordingly. A gap in the cake’s surface after a slice is removed might become, say, a waterfall, or a rainbow. Disney briefly offered video projection cakes as part of their wedding service beginning in 2014, but the product doesn’t seem to have taken off.
In a chocolate arms war worthy of Willy Wonka, in the past few years most of the world’s major candy companies have invented and patented methods for making heat-resistent chocolate. Hershey’s 2014 patent involved turning the chocolate products into a powder, mixing the powder into a dough, then solidifying the dough into a chocolate-like product. Kraft holds a 2011 patent for heat-proofing chocolate by impregnating it with extra water and then putting it through a microwave process. The resulting product, Kraft claims, can be subjected to temperatures of up to 50 degrees Celsius (about 122 Fahrenheit) without melting. Nestlé’s filed a 2013 patent for making chocolate heat-tolerant by adding a dietary fiber from citrus, wheat or even peas to stabilize the chocolate in high temperatures. It even promises its product won’t stick to the wrapper.