The arrival of chocolate bunnies in stores is a budding sign of Easter fast approaching, bringing with it picnics, candy-colored eggs, and the first days of spring. But when did these edible treats first hop onto our candy counters? Read on for a brief history.
In pre-Christian pagan times, spring was celebrated by giving thanks to the ancient goddess of fertility Eostre—from which “Easter” derived its name. Since the rabbit was recognized as a symbol of fertility and new life, it became associated with the rituals of Easter springtime.
In the 1800s, the first edible bunnies appeared in Germany, transforming the animal from a cuddly creature to a cottontail confection. These were baked from pastry dough and sugar, and placed in hidden nests around the house and garden for kids to find in celebration of spring (sound familiar?). As Germans migrated to America, they brought over the tradition of making these bunny treats.
Whitman’s Chocolates was one of the first American manufacturers to produce chocolate bunnies in 1842, but the popularity of the bunny mold didn’t pick up speed until the turn of the 20th century. In 1916, Bortz chocolate factory began mass-producing the creamy confection, and over the decades many popular brands caught on to the craze, including Lindt, Cadbury and Dove.
Nowadays, Americans spend roughly $1.9 billion on Easter candy, second only to Halloween in candy consumption. Ninety million chocolate Easter bunnies are produced each year—ranging the full spectrum from white to dark chocolate, and with limitless varieties of fillings, including almond crunch to caramel to the ever popular hollow center.
The method of biting into a chocolate bunny has become a tradition in itself. More than 75 percent of Americans go for the ears first. Regardless of how you plan your first bite, one thing is for certain: Easter bunnies have become one of the sweetest parts of the springtime season.