Building Summer Candy Business: Curtiss, 1919

July 12, 2010 at 12:30 pm 2 comments

Summer candy is tricky. It’s hot, it’s humid, candy doesn’t do too well. If you want to sell candy year round, you need to come up with some weather-resistant offerings.

Curtiss Candy of Chicago took out this trade ad in 1919 featuring their summer candy offerings. The theme is “doesn’t melt,” so don’t expect much along the lines of chocolate.

Suckers, coconut  mounds, soft kisses, fudge. Nothing spectacular, but solid candy offerings.

Here’s the second page of the ad.

Two color pages! In the black-and-white, plain paper publication in which this ad appears, this was extraordinary and required a special heavier stock paper to be inserted.  Curtiss was spending a lot on these trade promotions.

The candies on offer are pretty generic. About what you’d find at any sea-side candy shop today. The one I got excited about is on the second page, the marshmallow banana. I’d read about these (see my post on early marshmallow candies), but this is the first image I’ve seen. And the promotion suggests that kids love these things:

Schoolday treats and schoolday feasts–what boy or girl fails to include Marshmallows and Bananas? Old favorites, both, and because of the attractive combination of chew-y Marshmallow and rich, delicious Banana flavor, Curtiss Marshmallow Bananas are universally popular.

It is what it sounds like, a marshmallow shaped like a banana and flavored with “banana” flavoring.  This would have been a more dry and solid sort of marshmallow than the one in your Jet Puff bag today, so you could hold it like a banana. And given the state of flavor technology in 1919, we have to assume that by “banana” they meant “vaguely familiar banana-ish chemical flavor.” The ad states the banana depicted is “actual size” (sorry it got sort of cut out of the picture, I’m working in pretty primitive conditions). That would make the marshmallow banana about 4 inches.

At the retail level, it is unlikely that customers would know or care who made these suckers and fudge. There’s no label or brand. So the whole sales pitch is aimed at the retailers and distributors. The emphasis is on low prices: low prices at wholesale translate to higher margins at retail. And why can Curtiss offer their goods at prices so much lower than the competition?

Such Low Prices Because–We preserve our high standard of quality perfection in all lines running full force–throughout the entire year. We keep all departments running continuously, so that each worker becomes expert. The continuous policy also enables us to quote unusually low prices.

What is interesting is the emphasis on year-round production. This is a new phenomenon, made possible by new cooling technologies that would allow for some degree of climate control in the factory. Historically, the “candy season” went from October through Easter. Most candy factories shut down production during the hottest months, leading to all sorts of problems. But in 1919, the candy-verse is just glimpsing the possibilities of becoming a year-round industry.

Curtiss ad appeared in May 1919 Confectioners Journal.

Related Post:
Toasted Mallows for Toasty Days

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Leona  |  July 30, 2010 at 2:53 am

    A banana marshmallow? Genius! I would’ve love to try that. The chemical banana flavor you speak of is an ester. I remember in O-Chem we synthesized esters, and the whole lab smelled of Juicy Fruit gum. Mmmm, delicious! And I’m a big fan of the banana Laffy Taffy – so very chemical, so very delicious.

    Years ago, I remember ordering through the mail some very deluxe, artisan marshmallows from NY. What a treat.

    Reply
    • 2. Candy Professor  |  August 3, 2010 at 8:45 pm

      Thanks for the chemistry info, my scientist friend. I remember the “banana” flavor creams in the Brach’s assortment when I was a kid always made me feel like I was having respiratory failure, definitely less banana fiels and more bunsen burners on that one…

      Reply

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Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

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Candy in American Culture What is it about candy? Here you'll find the forgotten, the strange, the curious, the surprising. Our candy story, one post at a time.

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