Candy question of the day: why is the trade newspaper ConfectioneryNews.com publishing an article about FIBER?
“Novel Fiber May Blunt Blood Sugar Spikes” (8 Oct 2010) describes recently published research results on PGX, a “novel fiber supplement.” This research did not involve candy. Researchers spiked breakfast cereal with this soluble fiber and studied the blood sugar response to eating. Subjects who ate the fiber had more even blood sugar response.
Now confectioners are not in the cereal business. They are in the candy business. This coverage is very suggestive. There is a hint at food uses to come:
PolyGlycopleX (PGX) is a newly developed highly viscous polysaccharide complex that is reported to demonstrate a delayed onset of peak viscosity, “allowing for a more palatable and easy-to-use functional fiber,” state the authors. … The authors noted that the beneficial effects of functional fibers are highly dependent on the food matrix, adding that unpublished data has suggested PGX to be “just as effective when sprinkled on food as dissolved in water.”
Fiber that is soluble, more palatable, easy to use, and regulates blood sugar. Doesn’t need to be dissolved in water. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Stay tuned for the next generation of functional candies…
Glassine is a kind of paper. It is thin, translucent, moisture and grease resistant. It is in wide use today, you’ve seen glassine envelopes for stamp collecting, or maybe bought a sack of hot roasted peanuts in a glassine bag.
In the ‘teens, the packaging of candy changed dramatically. Old-time candy was packaged in bulk, and measured out at the point of sale. You can see the problems with this system, though: it was slow, you needed a clerk to serve each customer, it might be unhygienic, and it didn’t encourage any kind of brand loyalty.
Glassine was one of the new materials that made it possible for candy makers to package their goods individually. They could put their name on the package, thus enhancing brand identity. And glassine allowed for a cloudy glimpse of the tasty candy inside.
Here are some examples of early glassine packaging. I especially like these images because they show examples of the earliest candy bars produced by small and long-gone candy makers.
As the “Glassine Bags” ad shows, glassine was also useful for packaging things like peanuts, popcorn, and small candies because it could be glued into the shape of a bag or envelope.
Of course, today the flexible and transparent poly bags have taken the place of glassine. But in our time of “green” packaging, maybe we’ll see a glassine comeback!
Ads appeared in Confectioners Journal, 1919 and 1920.
With the cold and flu season bearing down on us like a cold wind from the north, it is time to take stock. Are you eating enough candy?
Today we think of sugar candy as good-tasting poison: not just tummy aches, but obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and an early grave are attributed to excessive candy indulgence. (Chocolate, with its mysterious and exotic flavonoids, appears exempt.) But well into the twentieth century, many cast enormous store in the medicinal properties of sugar candy.
Here’s a report from 1922 extolling sugar-candy as a potent remedy to cure heart weakness brought on by influenza. Dr. F. Thompson of Sunbury-on-Thames explains:
I was sent for on Sunday to see an old woman of over 80 with a pulse of 140 beats to the minute. I gave her sugar-candy at once, and next morning her pulse was down to 88.
Dr. Thompson’s success with this patient inspired him to prescribe sugar candy to all his patients. What medical results this produced we cannot know, but I suspect it led to a substantial increase in his professional popularity.
An unnamed physician at a London hospital explains the powerful effects of sugar candy on the ailing body:
Sugar-candy, and sugar generally, are wonderful heart foods, great heat producers, and easily utilized by the body. Cases in which strong heart stimulants have failed have been immensely improved by the consumption of sugar. It is a very valuable agent in post-influenza cases both for the heart and the lungs.
The miraculous curative powers of candy even inspired one man of medicine to discard his pharmacy in favor of confectionery:
A London doctor, who was cured in this way of extreme heart weakness, has given up medicine, and has taken to eating sugar.
Legal disclaimer in case you’re thinking about treating your next bout of flu with a Whitman’s Sampler: Would I advise the same? Dear me, of course not. I’m a candy professor, not a doctor! But if you’re stuck in bed anyway, a little candy might be nice…
Source: “Candy for Flu,” Confectioners Journal, April 1922, p. 100, quoting an article originally published in the London Daily Mail.
Kids! So much energy! So much enthusiasm! What is their secret? Could it be…candy?
Hey grown ups! Get smart! Do what the kids do: eat Tootsie Rolls!
Tootsie Rolls from the very beginning struggled to be accepted as a candy for adults. When they were launched in the early 1900s, they chose “sophisticated” browns and golds for the wrapping, packaged the penny pieces into larger boxes, and advertised heavily as a treat for all ages. (See my post Tootsie Roll: Penny Candy That’s Not)
Fact is, kids may love candy, but they don’t have the big bucks. Alas, as you can see can see in this series of ads from the 1940s, Tootsie Roll candies seemed to just naturally roll back into the children’s candy market. And frankly, it’s no surprise. Tootsie Rolls are chewy and a little tough, and the spectacle of an adult gnawing on one of these big sticks of sticky is just a little undignified.
So to stir things up a bit, Tootsie Roll came up with the idea of an epic battle of the generations over control for the nation’s Tootsie Rolls. In this next ad, things have really gotten out of control, with soldiers stealing Tootsie Rolls out of the mouths of babes:
Did you catch that WARNING at the top? The Adult practice of stealing children’s Tootsie Rolls has grown to a national menace!
It is unclear whether the soldier’s job is to protect children from the “national menace,” or if it is the soldier himself who is the “national menace.” World War Two, the implicit backdrop for this ad, would certainly have been a lot more fun if it was just about wresting Tootsie Rolls out of the wrong hands.
And look at this poor little moppet who lost all her “beeyootiful, chocolate, chewy” Tootsie Rolls to the greedy grownups:
They brought the Tootsie Rolls for her, and then they ate them all up! No fair!
In all these ads, the adults are shown doing something sneaky or even criminal: they are spying on children, and stealing their treats. This makes the message a little confusing: one one hand, Tootsie is persuading adults that they too should eat Tootsie Rolls because they taste good and give you that “pep.” On the other hand, adults are “stealing” them from children, which seems to imply that the Tootsie Rolls really belong to the children. The ad tells adults to “get your own,” but the only way adults seem to be able to get candy is by pretending it is for children and then gobbling it up themselves. Hmm, with Halloween coming up, that might just sound about right…
Tootsie Rolls make adults into children, and children into little swaggering adults. This tough guy complains:
Gotta watch those grown ups! They sight a Tootsie, sink same.
Grown ups are naughty, and the kiddies have to keep an eye on them to keep them from swiping the candy. In this installment, grown ups are depicted as ignorant as well:
Most of those Tootsie swipers don’t even know that Tootsies are pep food!
It’s the kid who knows that Tootsie candy is quick food-energy, while the grown ups only seem to care about the “chocolatety luscious flavor.”
My impression of these ads is that despite the explicit intention to persuade adults to eat Tootsie Rolls, they seem to be reinforcing the message that Tootsie Rolls are really children’s candy. Given the nature of the Tootsie Roll, maybe failure was inevitable. By the 1950s, Tootsie had pretty much given up trying to persuade adults to eat Tootsie Rolls. Ever after, the focus was on selling Tootsies to children directly and on selling Tootsies to adults as treats for children.
Rich in Dextrose for Quick Food Energy: if you’re wondering what all the dextrose excitement was about in these 1940s ads, see my posts on dextrose, candy, and food energy:
“Dextrose helps make candy a delicious food.” The key word here is FOOD: candy isn’t just a treat, it’s actual sustenance. This ad contrasts the old fashioned notions of grandma, who thinks of candy as a simple confection, with the new modern knowledge of nutrition possessed by the younger woman. The new generation knows that:
Candy is a veritable bulwark against between-meal fatigue. Even doctors consider candy a desireable requirement of the daily diet. … The concentrated food-energy of candy is obvious because it is simply a delicious combination of many highly nutritious foods everyone eats every day–chocolate, milk, butter, corn syrup, dextrose, sucrose, eggs, fruits and nuts.
And that’s why:
Intelligent health-minded people prefer candy products made with Dextrose because they appreciate its great value as the chief quick energy fuel of the body. … Whenever you buy a bar or box of candy, look among the ingredients on the wrapper for “Dextrose”: it assures you always of genuine food energy to sustain your body in work or play.
Dextrose is making its debut in ads like this one. American consumers are getting to know this “ALL-AMERICAN SUGAR” which is appearing in a wide variety of familiar foods. This ad copy makes dextrose sound somewhat miraculous: food, but better than food. Among all those candy ingredients, it’s dextrose that you are supposed to look for and demand for real “food energy.” Not sucrose (sugar), not eggs, not milk, not nuts, not chocolate. To today’s consumer, this seems a little fishy. Or better, a little corny.
This ad promoting candy as delicious food appeared as a part of a series produced by the Corn Products Refining Co. promoting their sweetening product derived from corn. Dextrose had been around since the early 1900s, but was pretty much known only to the food and confectionery industry.
According to the Corn Refiners Association’s official history, the corn refining industry was born in 1844 with the development of technology to extract starch from the corn kernel. The principal use of corn starch was: laundry.
But by 1866, someone figured out how to derive dextrose from that corn starch. Something new under the sun: corn sugar (as syrup, or further refined to crystalline dextrose, a technology that arrived in the 1920s). Unlike cane sugar and beet sugar which were extracted from the sweet stalk or bulb, corn sugar was the product of a chemical reaction, an enzymatic transformation of not-sweet laundry starch to sweet syrups and powders.
Dextrose as corn syrup was an important ingredient in its own right. And as crystalline dextrose, it could be substituted for refined beet or cane sugar in some uses. Dextrose was cheaper than regular sugar, so there were some manufacturers who were substituting it on the sly prior to the 1940s. But when WWII food disruptions led to sugar rationing, dextrose suddenly had a new allure.
Chemically, dextrose is identical to glucose. Glucose is the simple sugar from which living cells directly extract energy. Our bodies use glucose immediately as it is absorbed through the blood stream (hence “blood sugar”); other simple sugars, like fructose, have to be metabolized before they become available as fuel. Corn sugar is sometimes called glucose. In fact, when corn sugar, in the form of a syrup, was first introduced as a food ingredient, producers used the term “glucose”: problems with confusion with “glue,” however, led to the new term “corn syrup” in 1914, which is pretty much what we’ve called it ever since. (See Glue-Cose for the whole story.)
But by the 1940s, corn refiners and food producers were using the term dextrose to refer to any kind of sugar derived from corn. In any event, corn sugar, glucose, corn syrup, and dextrose pretty much mean the same thing as far as the chemistry of sugars goes. In many contexts today, the word glucose is reserved for the sugar that is zooming around in your blood, while the term “dextrose” refers to the corn sugar that is chemically identical but hasn’t entered your blood stream yet.
Confused? It’s confusing. The FDA defines “corn sugar” as a particular chemical [alpha]-D-glucopyranosetates and then notes that this chemical is “commonly called D-glucose or dextrose.” Dextrose (a.k.a. glucose) is also found in fruits and honey; I’ve seen references to processed sugar from grapes referred to as “grape dextrose.” Fructose is another sugar that is commonly found in fruits and honey. Table sugar is sucrose: a fructose bonded to a glucose. Like I said, it’s confusing. But bear with me. The identity of glucose and dextrose turns out to be the key.
The problem in the 1940s is: how is the corn refining industry going to transform their cheap sugar substitute, something that food processors don’t even want consumers to know they are using, into a desirable commodity? Answer: by using advertising to rebrand Dextrose as the patriotic, scientific, nurturing alternative to that other sweet stuff. Remember how I said that dextrose is glucose, and glucose is the form of sugar directly metabolized by the body? Here’s the way that gets translated into selling dextrose:
The text reads in part:
The chief fuel for bodily activity is a sugar called Dextrose. Dextrose is formed in Nature by the action of sunlight upon plant life. Human life depends on it for energy…. Keep the energy of sunshine in your body. Demand foods “Enriched with Dextrose.”
So according to this ad, dextrose isn’t just an ingredient or a sweetener. It “enriches” the food with the “energy of sunshine.” The funny thing is, dextrose actually is not produced in corn by the sun. Dextrose is the result of lab work performed on corn starches.
You can also notice how utterly nonsensical this idea of “energy” turns out to be. Behind the claim that Dextrose is energy from the sun is simple carbohydrate science. Dextrose is sugar carbohydrate, sugar carbohydrate, like all carbohydrates, is metabolized by the body for energy. All sugars give this “energy,” as do all breads, pastas, apples, bananas, and pickles.
Another thing to notice is the emphasis on nature here (and this is decades before anybody is talking about “natural foods”): no mention of corn refining or enzymatic extraction. The path of dextrose is all natural: is from sun to plant to body. And the baby seals the deal: dextrose is the sugar in infant formula, the food for the beginning of life. If it’s good for babies, how can it be bad?
The sharpest arrow in Corn’s quiver, however, was patriotism. This is during the Second World War, remember. Corn is an American crop. Sugar from Corn is All-American Sugar:
Dextrose is the sugar that comes from American crops, the bounty of American agriculture, the wholesomeness of the American farm. Dextrose might even help America win the war:
We, who must be strong, can build our strength upon the produce of our own farms. For instance, in our native fruits, vegetables and grain, we have an abundant supply of the natural sugar, DEXTROSE, which is food energy in its purest form–energy vital to the toiling, fighting Americans.
This ad doesn’t quite say it, but the contrast with traditional sugar is implicit. Most Americans have associated refined sugar with cane sugar (although most of our sugar actually comes from beets). Cane is refined in the U.S., but the sugar cane is grown in hot, tropical places. The images of sugar cultivation popular in the first part of the twentieth century featured exotic tropical plantations worked by sweaty, dark skinned bodies. In this context, promoting corn sugar as “All-American” is also hinting that the other sugar is not quite so American at all.
Dextrose is an ALL-American sugar, derived from American corn, refined in American factories, distributed by American companies.
Today, the Corn Refiners Association is struggling to re-brand High Fructose Corn Syrup as “corn sugar.” Seems Americans have decided that everything that has gone wrong in the last 30 years is the fault of HFCS, which is a fairly recent invention and reeks of the science lab. Re-branding it as “corn sugar” makes it seem more…natural. How funny to note that 70 years ago, corn was fighting pretty much the same battle to have sugar derived from corn accepted as a natural and wholesome food ingredient.
More Dextrose: Candy makers also promoted Dextrose in the 1940s as a benefit of their candy products, as you can read about in my previous post, Candy and Corn: Rich in Dextrose!
In the department of “virtue out of necessity,” I bring you the story of DEXTROSE.
Dextrose candy: doesn’t quite roll off the tongue. In fact, if you don’t know what dextrose is, which I confess I didn’t until I started Candy Professor, it doesn’t even sound edible! But for most candy-buying and eating purposes, dextrose is just another kind of sugar that can be used for particular candy effects. In particular, “compressed dextrose” is the technical term candy people use to describe the powdery hard candies: Altoids, Smarties, candy necklaces, and all those Made-in-China candy trinkets like robot puzzles and building blocks that you can eat when you’re done.
But still, what is dextrose? Dextrose is sugar produced from corn. Today is is one of many many kinds of sugars that food processors can use for various effects. Like compressing it to make candy necklaces. But in the 1930s and 1940s, dextrose was the major competitor and substitute for the more traditional refined sugars from beet and cane.
Americans did not automatically embrace sugar from corn. As we can see today in the backlash against high fructose corn syrup, American consumers are suspicious of the whole corn refining process. In my next post, I’ll take a look at the marketing materials produced by the Corn Refiners Association back in the 1940s to sell Americans on this new kind of sugar. The story I want to tell today is about dextrose and candy: how candy makers took a problem, sugar shortages, and turned it into a big candy plus.
As WWII disrupted the world food supply, cane and beet sugar prices were rising and sugar shortages seemed likely. But sugar made from corn was not affected. So food processors began looking for ways to use corn sugar in the place of more expensive beet and cane sugar.
Beet and cane sugar processors were not happy about this; in 1940 they sued to force peach canners to identify dextrose as an ingredient when they used it as a sugar substitute. This lawsuit shows how the public acceptance of dextrose was in transition; the department of Agriculture had allowed use of dextrose without disclosure on the grounds that it was not an injurious ingredient. But the beet and cane sugar refiners seemed to think that peach canners might be less likely to substitute dextrose if they had to claim it on the label.
Sweet is sweet, but the sugars are slightly different. Cane sugar and beet sugar, you may recall, are “disaccharides”: they combine glucose, which our body uses directly, and fructose, which is first metabolized by the liver. Corn sugar, called dextrose in processing uses, is virtually all glucose.
If you had to claim “dextrose” as an ingredient, it might turn consumers off. After all, what exactly was this dextrose to the average American? It sounds kind of chemical-ish. But instead of “cheap sugar substitute,” what if you could sell it as a miracle food? And so, dextrose stormed the market as: PURE ENERGY!
Curtiss Candies, the manufacturer of Baby Ruth and Butterfinger bars, put serious money into advertisements that boasted that the candy was “rich in dextrose, the sugar your body needs for energy”:
See the little guy on the side? He’s sort of the candy bar cheerleader, and in the 1939 wrapper he’s saying “Slice and Serve for All Occassions.” Fancy!
Soon, though, the cheerleader had a new name: N.R.G. (get it, energy!). And a new cheer: “Rich in Dextrose.” In this 1940 ad, little N.R.G. appears as a runner, ready to win the race. The text next to the runner explains:
By actual energy tests, a 150-lb athlete can run almost 4 miles at a speed of more than 5 m.p.h. on the FOOD ENERGY contained in one 5c bar of delicious Baby Ruth candy.
And even though “dextrose” sounds like a pitch for the newest scientific views, the strawberries and the ad copy reassure us that dextrose is all natural and all good.
And here’s N.R.G. in 1942: Baby Ruth gives food energy to soldiers overseas and office workers at home. And what about that mama with the little baby? Dextrose is “an essential in infant feeding.” Is that candy bar for hungry mom, or sweet-loving baby?
More posts on sugar, corn and candy:
- Glue-cose, Or, Why we call it “Corn Syrup” Back in the early 1900s, corn growers were having trouble selling their corn-derived sweetener known as “glucose,” because everyone thought it was made of glue. Enter “corn syrup,” wholesome and pure sounding, until now.
- Corn People: How It Started In the old days, corn was animal feed. WWI food shortages changed everything. Now corn was patriotic people food.
- Corn Into Candy: 1918 With WWI sugar rationing, candy makers showed their stars and stripes by substituting corn syrup and other corn-derived ingredients.
- Beer and Candy III: Annheuser Busch and Corn Syrup Prohibition gave the shift to corn sweeteners an extra boost when beer makers looked for something else they could do with grains.
- Sweetose: Better Candy from the Chemistry Lab Sweetose was modified corn syrup, made sweeter by combining maltose with glucose. A forerunner to high-fructose corn syrup.
Of course you know Domino sugar. It’s those little white packets next to the NutraSweet and Equal in the glass tray at the diner. The name “Domino” was coined in the early 190o’s, after the ancestor to the sugar packet: the sugar cube. The trademark name for an otherwise unremarkable commodity kept Domino, and its manufacturer, the American Sugar Refining Company, out at the head of the sugar pack through the 19th century. Today, the Domino Sugar Corp. has no real rivals in the field of refined sugar, according to the experts at the International Directory of Company Histories (Domino history reproduced at FundingUniverse.com). No, the real competition to Domino Sugar is not sugar at all. Analysts warn: “the trend toward non-caloric artificial sweeteners has started to cut into the firm’s profits.”
I laughed when I read this. The sugar industry has been grappling with how to sell its product to “diet conscious consumers” for 60 years. And as I described in previous posts, the explosion of artificial sweeteners in the 1950s challenged the sugar producers and the candy industry alike. (See especially The Plague of Overweight and 1954 Fake Sugar Smack Down)
Back in the early 1900s, the American Sugar Refining Company dominated the American refined sugar market. It was the first to successfully apply a branding strategy to sugar: not just sugar but DOMINO sugar. Sugar demand and sugar consumption exploded in the 1920s and 1930s. After the painful (and, due to sugar shortages and rationing, much less sweet) war years (1942-1945), Domino was back in full force, feeding the nation’s demand for sugary sweets to the tune of something like $180 million in annual sales.
But their was a cloud on the sugar horizon. A big, fat cloud. After a decade of post-war binging, America was feeling the effects. “Overweight” was a national health crisis. Everyone was reducing. No fattening sugar!
What’s a fattening sugar producer to do? Domino had one idea: prove that sugar isn’t fattening.
Counting calories these days? You should know that generous amounts of Domino’s Granulated Sugar, used in your favorite foods and beverages, contain fewer calories than usual servings of many foods regularly included in reducing diets.
By 1955, this campaign had evolved from “sugar has fewer calories than you think” to “sugar is for reducing”. the message in this ad, a revision of the 1953 ad above, suggests that heaping three spoons of sugar into your coffee is a better strategy for weight loss than munching on an apple:
The final piece of this marketing campaign was this little cookbook for the “slim and trim”:
America Sugar promoted this booklet as
the safe, sure way to lose weight without losing pep or giving up sugar! … It’s Domino’s effort to put SUGAR–and sugar-containing foods and beverages–back in Reducing Diets…where they belong! (ad to the trade in Confectioners Journal, April 1955 p 9)
Domino Sugar is going through some changes today. Heard of the Domino Sugar Building on the Williamsburg waterfront? The American Sugar Refining Company built its first sugar refining plant here in my native Brooklyn,. It shut down in 2004 (and will likely be reborn as luxury condos, what else), but this is what it looked like in the late days:
And sugar? Domino is branching out in new directions. They have developed a perplexing array of products for food processing applications known as “non-sweet sugars”: such oxymorons are evidently useful in things like sports drinks which are sweet but not so sweet, and also in non-fat frostings, frozen desserts and salad dressings where the non-sweet sugar takes the place of some of the fat. The company has also teamed up with erstwhile enemy NutraSweet to develop and market…artificial sweeteners.
See my related posts on candy, calorie counting, sugar and artificial sweeteners:
- When Candy Became Sin: Lulu Hunt Peters and the Invention of Dieting
- 1954: The Plague of Overweight and the Salvation of Reduced Calorie Foods (Except Candy)
- 1954 Fake Sugar Smack-Down
- Candy Box Insert Promotes Weight Loss, 1954