It’s fall’s tiny, almost sickeningly sweet answer to the candy hearts and Peeps of spring. But did you know that candy corn has a history stretching back a century? Here’s the story behind one of our favorite seasonal treats.
Candy corn was first invented in the 1880s in Philadelphia by the Wunderle Candy Company. At the time, candy was frequently crafted in the shape of plants and other natural foods like chestnuts and clovers. Candy maker George Renninger wanted to try creating something in the shape of corn—which ironically wasn’t widely consumed by the public at the time—and wound up with candy corn. The first multi-colored candy, the tri-layering effect mesmerized the public. Despite corn’s associations of the time as unappealing and low-brow, it was an immediate success.
By the 1890s, the Goelitz Confectionary Company, lead by German immigrant Gustav Goelitz, began manufacturing candy corn as well. Made by hand and only produced from March-November, the candy grew to be associated with the fall harvest, which is when it was widely available.
Goelitz’s company expanded during World War I and eventually became contemporary candy maker Jelly Belly. As Halloween became a secular holiday associated with both kids and candy, candy corn came to be known as the holiday’s special indulgence. The yellow and orange colors helped feed the connection.
Today, more than 35 million pounds of candy corn are sold annually. It may not be everyone’s favorite, but it’s definitely here to stay.