Chicken Feed: a history behind candy corn

With All Hallows Eve just around the corner, I’ve decided to dedicate this week to fun things related to Halloween.  Today’s post?  The history behind candy corn.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Passed down through oral history, candy corn is said to have been created some point in the 1880s by candy maker George Renninger of Wunderle Candy Company in Philadelphia.  They were the first to commercially sell candy corn, but the most well known company to sell it is the Goelitz Candy Company, now known as the Jelly Belly Candy Company.  Jelly Belly still uses the original recipe, and has been the longest continuous seller of candy corn in history.

In 1898, the Goelitz Candy Company took over production from the Wunderle Candy Company, marketing it as “chicken feed.”  Most pre-WWI Americans didn’t really eat corn; it was what you fed chickens and pigs, or ate if you were desperate.  A colorful rooster donned the box with the slogan: ‘Something worth crowing for.’

Photo courtesy of Jelly Belly Candy Company.

Photo courtesy of Jelly Belly Candy Company.

If you look at the little triangular pieces, they do indeed look like the corn you’d see scattered around a barnyard with little chickens snatching up bits as they walk.  And, in fact, the triangular candy is supposed to resemble corn kernels, with the yellow stripe being the top.

Made of a mixture of sugar, corn syrup, fondant, and marshmallow, each color in the candies used to be made separately in large kettles, then hand poured into wooden kernel molds individually.  As the candies hardened, the separate colors fused together.  This tricolor design was considered revolutionary for the time, and immediately became a big seller.  So popular, in fact, that the Goelitz company had to turn down orders because they didn’t have the staff to produce large scale orders.  Additionally, the corn was easily perishable, preventing widespread distribution out of the Ohio area.

By 1951, Goelitz had 12 factories around the country, and with the creation of plastic bags to keep perishable items fresher longer, everyone around the country were able to enjoy these delightful little Halloween treats.

If you’re curious about seeing how candy corn at Jelly Belly is made today, check out the video from the Chew:

Go get yourself a bag of these little candies, and revel in this long standing Halloween tradition!

Further Reading:

Broek, Sara.  ‘The History of Candy Corn: A Halloween Candy Favorite.’ Better Homnes and Gardens. 2012. Web. 27 October 2013

Candy Favorites. ‘The Surprising History of Candy Corn.’ Candy Favorites. 31 October 2011. Web. 27 October 2013

Haunted Bay. ‘History of Candy Corn, King of Halloween Candy.’ Haunted Bay. 2011. Web. 29 October 2013

Kawash, Samira. ‘Where Our Love/Hate Relationship With Candy Corn Comes From.’ The Atlantic. 30 October 2010. Web. 27 October 2013

Kawash, Samira. “1951 Goelitz Candy Corn Ad.” Candy Professor. 30 Oct. 2010. Web. 27October 2013

Weston, Nicole. ‘The History of…Candy Corn.’ Slashfood. The Huffington Post, 30 October 2006. Web. 27 October 2013


1 Comment

Filed under 1880s

One response to “Chicken Feed: a history behind candy corn

  1. Zedwebb

    I always wondered where candy corn came from. I did not know it had been around for so long

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