10 American Candy Classics

American Icons, Americana, Featured Article, Food, Traditions
on October 26, 2013

From Tootsie Rolls to taffy, an abundance of sweet concoctions have their roots in America, where confectioners have enjoyed sweet success creating many of the world’s favorite candy brands. Here are 10 classic candies to lick, taste, chew and savor.

Baby Ruth Candy Bar
Nestlé USA
Glendale, Calif.

Otto Schnering created his Kandy Kake bar soon after founding Curtiss Candy Co. in 1916 in Chicago. Dissatisfied with the treat’s moniker, he introduced a repackaged and rebranded Baby Ruth in 1921 for 5 cents each. While many claimed the name aimed to capitalize on the popularity of baseball star Babe Ruth, Schnering insisted the inspiration was President Grover Cleveland’s daughter, Ruth, and avoided paying royalties. Today, 73 million peanuts are roasted daily, combined with a chewy caramel and nougat center, and covered with chocolate. The candy’s primary factory is in Franklin Park, Illinois.

Candy Corn
Jelly Belly
Fairfield, California

Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois

George Renninger, an employee of Wunderle Candy Co. of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is credited with inventing Halloween’s signature candy during the 1880s, creating an innovative triangular, tri-color design that mimics a kernel of corn. The candy was an instant success, although the manufacturing process was labor-intensive. Sugar, corn syrup, fondant and marshmallow were cooked together in large kettles, and workers poured the concoction into molds, making three passes to create the broad yellow base, tapered orange center and white tip. In 1900, Goelitz Confectionary Co. began making the candy, and today its corporate successor, Jelly Belly, is the longest-running producer of candy corn. Brach’s, however, is the top candy corn seller. Americans eat about 20 million pounds of candy corn annually.

Dum Dum Pops
Spangler Candy Co.
Bryan, Ohio

In 1908, George Smith, a storeowner in New Haven, Connecticut, created the modern lollipop and named the confection after his favorite racehorse, “Lolly Pop.” Today, Spangler Candy Co. spins 10 million colorful orbs of sugar and corn syrup daily onto white sticks, wrapping them in classic Dum Dum Pop wrappers.

Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar
The Hershey Co.
Hershey, Pennsylvania

At the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, caramel-maker Milton S. Hershey saw a chocolate-making machine and was smitten. He bought the contraption for his factory in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and by 1900 the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar was born, eventually becoming the nation’s first mass-produced chocolate bar. Now headquartered and produced in nearby Hershey, the classic candy combines globally sourced cocoa beans with local dairy farm milk. Machines pour liquid milk chocolate into molds, and the bar is outfitted in Hershey’s signature brown wrapper.

Juicy Fruit
Chicago, Illinois

When Chicago salesman William Wrigley Jr. offered his customers free chewing gum for every baking soda purchase, he noticed they were more interested in the gum—prompting Wrigley to shift his business focus. In 1893, he introduced Juicy Fruit, Wrigley’s first chewing gum brand. His company supplied Juicy Fruit to U.S. troops during World War II, but temporarily ceased production for the public due to sugar rationing. The gum’s bright yellow package debuted in 1957, and in 1974 Juicy Fruit became the first product bearing a bar code, which launched the use of laser scanners in stores. Since 1971, Wrigley has made Juicy Fruit and other chewing gum brands in Flowery Branch, Georgia.

Red Vines
Bend, Oregon

Hershey, Pennsylvania

Viewed as a medicinal remedy and brought to America by European settlers, licorice is made from a plant called Glycyrrhiza, meaning “sweet root” in Greek. Today, the chewy twisted sticks are a top movie-theater treat. Early U.S. manufacturers include the American Licorice Co., established in 1914 in Chicago, and Young and Smylie (later called Y&S), begun in 1845 in Brooklyn, New York. Today, American Licorice makes Red Vines, produced in Union City, California. Y&S now is part of the Hershey candy family and makes the Twizzler brand, manufactured in Lancaster Pennsylvania, and Memphis, Tennessee. Americans prefer red licorice over black.

Life Savers
Chicago, Illinois

Motivated to create a heat-resistant candy, chocolate maker Clarence Crane invented the original Pep O Mint-flavored Life Saver in 1912 in Cleveland, Ohio. The hole-in-the middle design resembled a life preserver, inspiring the candy’s name during the same year of the sinking of the Titanic. In 1935, the fruity five-flavor pack was introduced and, during World War II, Life Savers were packed into U.S. military field rations. Today, more than 40 flavors are produced, including the original breath mints, which are made in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

M&M’s Chocolate Candies
Mars Chocolate North America
Hackettstown, New Jersey

In 1941, from their factory in Newark, New Jersey, Forrest Mars Sr. and partner Bruce Murrie introduced to World War II soldiers the cheerful chocolate candies that melt in your mouth, not in your hands. Mars, whose father founded the Mars candy empire, got his idea during the late 1930s while watching Spanish Civil War soldiers eating similar coated chocolate pellets. His new M&Ms were coated in five colors of tempered hard candy and packaged in pocket-size cardboard tubes that fit perfectly in GI cargo pants. Later sold in trademark brown bags and imprinted with the letter “M,” the button-shape candies eventually were unveiled in a rainbow of other colors, as well as a popular peanut version. Now the No. 2-selling candy behind Snickers, more than 400 million M&M’s are made daily at the family-owned company’s New Jersey headquarters and at a factory in Cleveland, Tennessee.

Tootsie Rolls
Tootsie Roll Industries
Chicago, Illinois

Austrian immigrant Leo Hirshfield’s affection for his 5-year-old daughter, Clara, nicknamed “Tootsie,” inspired the name of the chewy chocolate roll that he began making in 1896 in New York. Tootsie Rolls were the first individually wrapped penny candy and laid the foundation for one of the world’s largest candy manufacturers. Machines heat, cool, roll, cut and wrap 64 million Tootsie Rolls a day, the majority made at the company’s Chicago headquarters.

Salt Water Taffy
Fralinger’s Salt Water Taffy & James’ Candy
Atlantic City, New Jersey

The first records of “salt water taffy” date to 1883 when David Bradley sold taffy from his Atlantic City seaside stand. After a high tide soaked his taffy inventory, he joked that he was selling “salt water taffy,” and the name stuck. Atlantic City concessionaire and taffy stand operator Joseph Fralinger popularized taffy as a boardwalk favorite. Tourists flocked to Fralinger’s storefront window to watch the chewy candy being pulled over taffy hooks. Beginning in 1900, “taffy wars” ensued as the Enoch James family opened a rival taffy shop on the boardwalk. Today, the Glaser family runs both companies, where machines heat, pull, cut and wrap 750 pieces a minute.