The History and Tradition of Halloween Candy Corn

The History of Candy Corn


If Halloween were to be represented by an object, it would, no doubt, be the pumpkin. But if there is one candy that perfectly encapsulates the Halloween spirit in one small as sugary dose, it is the candy corn.

With its distinctive and festive color triptych which includes the jack-o’-lantern orange, the candy corn fits perfectly into the classic Halloween aesthetic. The candy is also undeniable tasty and at a remarkably small size, it’s not hard to eat them by the handful.

Still, there is so much more to these sweet treats than meets the eye. Did you know that this ubiquitous Halloween sweet has been around for over a century?  The candy corn has had quite a legacy in American history,  and the technology needed to create the treat was considered innovative for its time.

There are almost nine billion pieces of candy corn made annually, which is enough to circle the moon nearly 21 times if placed end-to-end!  The candy corn has had quite a journey.

George Renninger invented the candy corn in the 1880s. He worked at the Wunderlee Candy Company in Philadelphia.The candy corn was originally given the less appealing moniker “chicken feed,” because at the time, corn was closely associated with feeding chickens. 

The Goelitz Confectionary Company took over candy corn production in 1900 and still produces the sweet today, but now under the more recognizable name of the Jelly Belly Candy Company.

Initially, candy corn was made with a mixture of sugar, corn syrup and marshmallow flavor and it had no association with Halloween or autumn. The candy was not produced in a factory.  Instead employees would pour 45 pounds of the warm candy mixture into buckets called “runners.”  Men known as “stringers” would then walk backward pouring the mixture into cornstarch trays with the iconic kernel shape. It would take three passes to make the three colors. Wagons then delivered the candy in wooden boxes, tubs and cartons to drug stores. The iconic multi-colored scheme of the candy corn was considered to be revolutionary and customers went crazy for the sweet.

The popularity of the candy corn was so immense that competitors attempted to make candies in the shape of turnips, four-leaf clovers, chestnuts and other designs, but nothing could beat the unique design of candy corn.

In the 1900s, the demand for the candy corn was so high that Goelitz had to refuse orders because his company didn’t have the means to keep up with the ever-increasing requests.

The candy was perishable and couldn’t travel long distances until the 1940s when companies began using “family-sized” cellophane bags to keep their products fresh. With the introduction of the cellophane bag, Goelitz could ship his candy further than he ever had before.

By 1951, the Goelitz Company had 12 factories making candy corn all over the country. It was only after World War II that the candy corn was advertised as a Halloween candy. The tradition has remained unchanged.

In the fall of 1951, a local advertisement described the candy corn as the “Buttery flavored mellow cream candy corn in its familiar three colors. Approximately 360 pieces to the pound. The candy all children love to nibble on all year long.” Even though the advertisement suggests kids would eat candy corn the whole year, some people believe that because the ad ran in the first week of October that the candy has been associated with the month and Halloween ever since.

Today over 35 million pounds of candy corn are produced each year.

The sweet is even honored with its own holiday “National Candy Corn Day” on October 30th, right in time for Halloween!

As far as Halloween indulgences go, the candy corn isn’t unreasonably unhealthy for a candy. While the candy corn is mostly sugar, 22 pieces contain roughly 140 calories and no fat.

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