Alayam: Candy from Sweet Potatoes
For U.S. manufacturers as well as ordinary citizens, World War II meant shortages and rationing of many staple goods, including sugar. Citizens were encouraged to substitute honey and syrup in their home cooking. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture began to encourage the development of substitutes for sugar that would satisfy the nation’s demand for candy.
In Alabama, the Agricultural Research Station at Auburn began experimenting with a local crop, the sweet potato, sometimes also called the yam. After some mixing and melting and molding and such, they came up with something promising. In naming the new candy they melted together the state of its invention and the name of the now exalted tuber. They called it: Alayam.
Alayam was described as “a cocoanut brittle made with sweet potatoes.” The candy had potential. Some people liked it. In consumer acceptance tests, researchers determined that “40 percent of the nation’s consumers like this new product as well as or better than the candies they are currently buying or eating” and that “more than a third… would buy the product if it were available on the market.” A little luke-warm as endorsements go, but the point is, they didn’t spit it out.
Of course, neither the Alabama Station nor the U.S.D.A. was equipped to bring such a candy to the consumer market. Sugar rationing having been lifted in 1947, candy manufacturers were not so eager to experiment with marketing strange candy substances. And so Alayam never came to be.
It was perhaps an idea before its time. In today’s climate of concern about what goes into the food that goes into our bodies, maybe a sweet potato candy is just what we need.
Source: “Candy from Sweet Potatoes May Become Popular,” Confectioners Journal May 1950, p. 43.