6 Facts That Might Actually Give You A Little Respect For Candy Corn
Food News From BuzzFeed
The recipe is almost exactly the same as it was when it was invented in the 1880s.
If you've ever had a pulse in the month of October, you probably have some opinions about candy corn.
Every year, like clockwork, the internet (and beyond) erupts into the "candy corn is trash" vs. "STFU, candy corn is the best" debate. No matter how you feel, candy corn is chillin' over there in the corner, all 9 billion pieces manufactured a year of it, living for the once-a-year attention.
But how did the waxy kernels of sugar capture so much of our love, rage, attention, and stomachs? Let's take a little walk down memory lane to learn more about candy corn's roots.
It has a corn shape because ~nature~-inspired candy was all the rage in the 1880s.
If you're a proud candy corn hater, be glad you didn't live in 19th century America. Back then, "butter cream" candies like candy corn were pretty popular, and candy companies played around with how to package them to appeal to consumers. And what did the people want? EARTHY, ROOTSY CANDY THAT LOOKED STRAIGHT OUT OF MOTHER NATURE'S SACCHARINE WOMB, THAT'S WHAT. After all, in those days, the US was pretty agrarian, and about half of the country's workforce lived on farms. And boy, did the candymakers of yore listen to their desires.
Along with candy corn came candy chestnuts, candy pumpkins, candy turnips, and candy clover leaves. Only the pumpkin and corn shapes stood the test of time and palates, which means the clovers and turnips must've been real nasty.
At one time, it was called Chicken Feed.
No, haters, it wasn't used as chicken feed. Not only did the inventor of candy corn pander to the farmers of America with its shape, but for a time, it was called chicken feed. Even after the name was retired, Goelitz used a little cartoon rooster to market them with the slogan, "something worth crowing for."
Amazingly, candy corn was more popular than regular corn when it was first invented.
Candy corn caught on like wildfire not just because of its bite-sized shape and (debatably) delicious flavor, but also because the three-layered color scheme was novel and appealing (more on that later). But while people were throwing back handfuls of candy corn around the turn of the century, they weren't putting the natural stuff anywhere near their mouths. Before wartime shortages popularized the use of corn products during WWI, corn was coarse, flavorless, and used mostly as pet food because we hadn't created the delicious hybrids we know and love today. Thanks to a campaign to get people to replace white flour with corn flour, people got more used to gobbling up the crop. These days, it's safe to say that candy corn is no longer the more popular type of corn.
Originally, they were painstakingly made by hand, which led to their association with the fall.
Early candy corn was a labor of love, guys. According to Atlas Obscura, "After mixing a cavity cocktail of sugar, corn syrup, fondant, marshmallow, and water, the slurry would be dyed one of the three candy corn hues: orange, yellow, or white. Laborers would then take 45-pound buckets of the hot liquid candy and pour it into long rows of trays of kernel forms, making three passes, one for each color of the corn. Once this back-breaking work was complete, the molds would cool and candy corn was unleashed upon an autumnal population." That's right, the process was so long and labor intensive that the product could only be made available from March to November. That gave it a nice, cozy association with fall even before Halloween was the candy-collecting frenzy it is now.
It wasn't until sugar rations were lifted after WWII that door-to-door trick-or-treating became an integral part of the holiday. Even though its colors are decidedly autumnal, manufacturers marketed them as year-round treat, encouraging kids to nibble on them all year long, and even including them in a Brach's advertisement featuring summertime candies! Summertime!!! Nice try, fools.
The recipe is basically the same as it was in the 1880s.
Louis Black once joked that all candy corn was made in 1911, which is not true, but the candy corn we eat today isn't all that different from the stuff people munched on more than 100 years ago. The recipe is, and pretty much always has been, a mix of sugar, fondant, corn syrup, vanilla, and marshmallow creme, variously colored yellow, orange, and white, and poured into kernel-shaped molds. The only thing that's changed since the 1880s is the addition of marshmallow and fondant. Watch how it's made today here.
And all these years later, even though it tears our nation asunder year after year, it's statistically pretty darn popular.
Haters are going to hate — and hate loudly — but you can't argue with numbers. A 2013 National Confectioner's Association survey found that candy corn was the second-most popular Halloween candy in the US, second only to chocolate. Now, chocolate garnered 72% of the vote, while candy corn got just 12%, but still! It beat gummies and lollipops! Not only that, but it's the most popular Halloween candy in five whole states, according to a study by Influenster. So don't pay too much attention to the candy corn deriders — it looks like it's here to stay.
Chris Timmons / Via giphy.com