Posts filed under ‘Children and Candy’

Donate Candy to Science

Skittles density rainbow. Courtesy Loralee Leavitt

What to do with all that Halloween booty? You could eat it all. Or you could do candy science!

Check out Candy Experiments for ideas on dissolving, melting, mixing, and floating your way through the candy bucket. And if you happen to learn a little about solutions or acids or matter phase along the way, ooops! Blame the Candy Professor.

Candy Experiments is the work of Loralee Leavitt, a mom with a science background, curious kids, and too much candy on her hands. It’s real science, folks! Loralee’s candy science has been featured at the USA Science and Engineering Festival and featured in national publications. Great work on the candy front, Loralee!

November 1, 2010 at 8:27 am 1 comment

Halloween Candy to the Troops

If you have kids at Halloween time, you’ve probably already started to strategize a plan for candy rationing.

Dentists in your community are happy to help. Have you heard about the Halloween Candy Buy  Back? Participating dentists will accept your kids’ excess candy, pay out a dollar a pound, and send the candy to U.S. military serving overseas.

Over the years dentists have independently come up with the idea of gathering up all that extra Halloween candy and getting rid of it somehow. In 2006, Madison WI dentist Chris Kammer began to coordinate and organize the event nationally, emphasizing the buy back as a way of supporting the troops. Hundreds of local dental offices now participate. The master plan, according to Dr. Kammer, is that one day soon, dentists will “own Halloween.”

It is a win-win, as the dentists put it. Fewer pounds of candy for American kids, more pounds of candy for American troops.

Actually, taking candy from the kids and sending it to the troops is a pretty old idea.

Back in the 1890s, the German military started experimenting with sugar as a food for their soldiers. Sugar, the Germans concluded, refreshed and energized. The soldiers receiving sugar portions outperformed the sugar-free on every measure. Americans took note: Mary Hinman Abel, writing for the USDA, reported extensively on these military investigations in her 1899 study “Sugar as Food.”

The growth of candy manufacturing made more candy available for military uses. From a 1908 account of the Brooklyn candy trade:

Nowadays every battleship leaving the Brooklyn Navy Yard has on board a lot of candy for the men–Brooklyn candy. ‘Why, in the navy, when a man is handed a pound of tobacco now he is also given a certain amount of candy, and it is believed that the drinking habit will be lessened in that way,’ said a manufacturer. ‘The sailors like the plan immensely, but if they knew it was done for that, they would probably chuck the candy overboard. But aside from that, it is a good food for them; men can fight better on chocolate than on meat–that has been proved in the German army.’ (“Brooklyn leads Country in Candy Export”, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 7, 1908)

Even before the U.S. joined the European war, the soldiers’ love of candy was a common theme (see my post Taking Candy from a Soldier). The war-weary GIs returning from battle in World War I brought home with them a hearty candy appetite. The explosive growth of the U.S. candy business in the 1920s and 1930s was in large part due to a new, rigorous kind of candy eating: not just kiddies and plump ladies, but big strong soldier men had to have their candy.

World War II meant once again a big demand for candy for the troops. Sugar, and candy, were in short supply state-side during the war years, partly due to war shortage, but also due to the requisitioning of huge quantities of candy for military uses. Curtiss Candy reminded customers that Uncle Sam’s needs came first:

LIFE Magazine, 23 Jan 1943

If Americans were forced to give up some of their beloved candy to the troops in the 1940s, it was because it was the right thing, the patriotic thing to do.

And Tootsie Roll picked up the theme in their advertising:

LIFE Magazine, 26 Oct 1942 (detail)

In the Tootsie Roll ad, the joke is that the kids are mad that the grown ups are taking their candy: the soldier should buy his own Tootsie Roll. In jest or in the seriousness of war, the basic message was the same: you’ll have to give up your candy to the soldier if there isn’t enough to go around.  But patriotic support of the troops is the only reason you’d forgo your candy.

In the Halloween Buy Back, the long history of “candy for the troops” collides with more recent ideas about what is bad about candy. It is dentists, after all, representatives of health and hygiene, who are encouraging kids and families to turn in their candy to send to the troops. But if the candy is bad for the kids, why isn’t it bad for the troops?

The Buy Back FAQ suggests some responses to critics who ask this annoying question:

If you get negative comments or feedback, remind critics of the purpose of Halloween Candy Buy Back:

  1. Halloween candy represents a warm memory of life “back home” and children that care enough to donate candy in support of our troops.
  2. Those troops are risking their lives every day. If a little piece of candy can provide a moment of happiness, why not?
  3. Soldiers are adults and certainly understand how to keep their mouths healthy by now. Children are still learning how to brush, floss, and take care of their teeth.

The first two answers emphasize candy not as candy, but as an emotion-laden symbol. This solves the conflict between candy and dental virtue by making the candy invisible: In all those crates of candy, we’re not sending candy, we’re sending support and the warmth of home.

The third reason is that kids shouldn’t have candy because candy causes cavities in kids, but somehow adults will not have this problem. Here is where things get tricky.

Cavities are caused by acids given off by bacteria as they feed on sugars and starches deposited on the teeth. Not every mouth is equally susceptible. Some kids get tons of cavities no matter what they eat. Some kids plant their face in the sugar bowl and get none. And all sugars and starches that adhere to the teeth, be they from candy, bread, pasta, jam, potatoes, and even raisins, can create a bacterial strong hold.

Of course, a “spaghetti buy back” would not put the dentists on the side of angels. Candy is easy to blame, has been for a century, and dentists have grabbed on to the candy scapegoat. This is why dentists can contemplate “owning Halloween.” Don’t get me wrong: I love my dentist. But I love my candy too.

See also: NCA Operation Frontline Candy; “Candy in Combat Zones” in Candy and Snack Today

October 26, 2010 at 8:53 am 7 comments

1951 Halloween Candy

Here’s an ad for Kresge’s Market, New London CT, for 30 October 1951:

I was really happy to find this ad for many reasons. I have been trying to piece together the history of the  Halloween-candy connection, and this ad has some important clues.

The separation between “Halloween candy” and “trick or treat favors” is interesting. Presumably the former is more appropriate for refreshments at Halloween parties. The butter cream corns (candy corn), Hallowe’en butter creams (think Brach’s Harvest Mix), and orange and black kisses are just like the kinds of candies we would choose for a Halloween party today, orange and black and seasonal.

Despite this division between party candies to fill the bowl and “trick or treat favors,” I think it was not uncommon for the loose “party” candies to also be offered to trick or treaters. In fact, the candies listed for trick or treat are not all wrapped; licorice pieces and M&Ms would be loose, and ad suggests that other types of candy are also offered at 1 cent per piece. The insistence on portioned and pre-wrapped candy as the only acceptable trick or treat offering comes much later.

One puzzle: Why wouldn’t mini-Hershey’s be included for trick or treat? Perhaps at 45 cents a pound, it was a little too much for kiddie give away, it seems the candies under “trick or treat” are the cheaper ones. Another thing that I learn from this ad: I didn’t realize that the “mini” size candy bars were available so early. Packaging for trick or treat that I have seen from the 1950s typically is something closer to what we would consider a full size serving.

I also notice that for the party candies, “butter cream corn” is at the top of the list. I’m finding newspaper ads for Halloween including what we call candy corn as the first item featured for Halloween beginning around the 1930s. We think of candy corn as THE Halloween candy, and it is interesting to trace the history of that association. I’ll publish a more detailed account of candy corn later.

The image of trick or treat in this ad is fascinating. The candies are for “Trick or Treat Callers,” transforming the pranksters and gangsters of the 1930s and 1940s into genteel visitors come to pay their respects. The woman appears the most gracious hostess, offering a plate of delicacies to her diminutive guests. Handing out candy is a way to “be ready to make friends with your little neighbors.” It is as if the trick or treating exchange is to the benefit of the hostess, who is implicitly worried about making a good impression on the neighbors.

Related Posts:

October 15, 2010 at 10:23 am 4 comments

Whither Halloween Candy?

Jack-o'-lantern bucket filled with Halloween candy

I say Halloween, you say… candy, right?

It seems pretty obvious. Look at all that Halloween candy lining the shelves down at the CVS!

But back in first half of the twentieth century, there was no such thing as “Halloween candy.” Candy was big at Christmas and Easter, but Halloween wasn’t on the candy calendar at all.

Today the association of Halloween and candy seems natural, inevitable. But 100 years ago, there were many holidays that were equally un-candified. Christmas was the first, most “natural” candy holiday; it was an easy leap from oranges and cakes to candy sticks and chocolate boxes. The candy trade didn’t have to do much more than put their product out there. But other candy holidays were made, not born. The first candy promotion holiday success was Easter. Candy makers emphasized molded candies for the holiday, most of which look just like the Easter candies of today: bunnies, chicks, eggs. But in the days before trick or treat (which was not popularized until the late 1940s), there wasn’t an obvious use or demand for candy at Halloween, or at any other holiday for that matter. If candy sellers noted Halloween at all, it was as a theme for window displays which changed every month with the seasons.

In the years around the first World War, modern ideas of promotion and advertising became increasingly important in the candy business (as in all other businesses). It was obvious that holiday tie-ins could sell candy, but candy boosters in the 1920s were just as likely to aim for Washington’s Birthday, St. Patrick’s Day or the 4th of July as likely candy holiday contenders.

Candy visionaries like V.L. Price, former executive secretary of the National Confectioners Association, urged a full-bore assault on Halloween in a speech he gave at the NCA convention in 1922:

Have you any doubt, if manufacturers would create special “Hallowe’en Candies” and retailers in large numbers would feature special displays and sales on Hallowe’en, but that it would greatly increase candy sales on that day, and in doing it, would eventually make Hallowe’en a candy season.

Price pretty much nailed it, but he was way ahead of his time. It would be more than 30 years before Price’s vision of “Halloween Candies” would really take off in the late 1950s.

So what changed? Trick or treat seems an obvious source of Halloween candy demand. But the earliest trick or treaters in the 1940s and 1950s didn’t expect candy. They got all kinds of stuff: nuts, fruit, coins, ice cream, cakes and cookies, novelties and toys. Candy was also a possibility, but way down the list.

It took many years for candy to become the “treat” of choice. Why? Impossible to give a single easy answer, but here are some of the influences. These first few are about the accidents of history, about how candy distinguished itself from the other possible treats:

  • Convenience. Candy came pre-portioned and pre-wrapped. Even in the 1950s, it would have been easier to give away Hershey bars than to bake cookies or wrap pop-corn balls. For a while, the cereal companies promoted single size boxes as trick or treat, for the same reason.
  • Marketing. Beginning in the mid 1950s, candy companies were pushing candy for trick or treat. New candy products were developed for the holiday, especially the mini-sized bars and small bags of loose candy like candy corn marketed especially for trick or treat. Over the decades, marketing and packaging for Trick or Treat became a bigger and bigger factor.
  • Candy as a controlled substance. This one is a little more mushy, but I wonder if part of the reason candy became the exclusive treat for Halloween isn’t because kids were getting less candy at other times. Increasing parental control and new ideas about health made kids in the 1970s much less likely to have independent access to candy than kids in the 1950s. So the candy debauch of Halloween became extra important.
  • Halloween sadists: the razor blade in the apple. The fear that kids might be harmed by malevolent strangers was probably the factor that sealed the fate of candy at Halloween. If there was a possibility of poison or needles or razor blades being added to cookie doughs and apples, the only “safe” treat was the one sealed at the factory. Home made and unwrapped treats went straight to the garbage can.

Now that candy so decisively dominates the holiday, specific qualities of candy make it seem to be the “obvious” choice:

  • Gluttony: If you are getting cookies and nuts and being invited in for some nice punch on Halloween, there’s only so much you can eat and it doesn’t hoard very well. In contrast, wrapped candies with long shelf lives  might inspire a more deliberate sort of massing and hoarding. But did kids start getting greedy because candy was being given out? Or were they already greedy, and candy just made it easier? Put another way,  did adults start buying candy to give away because they observed that kids were hoarding, and decided to make it easier? Or did kids start hoarding more when candy came their way?
  • Treatiness. If the treats are sweet, what is sweeter than candy? Surveys indicate that what kids want above all on Halloween is candy.

A recent development suggests that candy’s vice hold on Halloween may not be so tight, at least so far as the adults who purchase the lion’s share of the treats are concerned. I’ve been noticing in the past couple of years more and more alternative snacks packaged as Halloween give-outs: little pouches of pretzels, mini Oreos (with orange filling), Rice Krispie Treats, and even pop corn balls. More and more I hear of people deciding to give out other pre-packaged kiddie snack items like juice boxes or single-serve potato chips. And this year the California Milk Processors are urging parents to give out chocolate milk instead of chocolate candy.

All of which hearkens back to the earliest times of trick or treat, when treats could be quite various.  The difference of course is that back in the 1940s Mrs. Johnson might give out cakes or cookies that she had baked that afternoon. And if Mrs. Johnson was handing out nuts or raisins, they were loose and unwrapped. Today Ms Johnson is buying factory-sealed, shelf-stable, brand name versions of all manner of snackables. And she’s buying them because she just doesn’t feel right about handing out candy. Are the kid’s preferences changing too? I’m not sure.

It’s not just Halloween that seems to be shifting into a different candy key. Candy companies are diversifying into “healthy alternatives” as fast as they can. Does this mean we’ll be done with candy soon, having triumphantly moved into the Age of the Turnip? No. We’ll still have candy. It will just be called something else. There’s always something new under the mylar-wrapped sun.

Related post:

Candies For Trick or Treat in the 1950s

October 14, 2010 at 10:58 am 10 comments

Get Your Own Tootsie!

Kids! So much energy! So much enthusiasm! What is their secret? Could it be…candy?

Life Magazine, 1 November 1943

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:

Life Magazine, 26 October 1942

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:

Life Magazine 23 Nov 1942

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…

Life Magazine 28 Sept 1942

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:

  • Candy and Corn: “Rich in Dextrose!”
  • Dextrose: All-American Corn Sugar
  • October 1, 2010 at 9:57 am 2 comments

    Back to School: Chocolate Milk Wars

    Glass Of Chocolate Milk

    So, it’s back to school already. And the milk wars are heating up. Today’s NYT Food section has a great feature on the fight over schools offering chocolate milk as part of a “nutritious lunch.” Kim Severson, “A School Fight Over Chocolate Milk”

    Best quote of the article: “Saying we need to add sugar and flavoring to milk to get kids to drink it is like saying we need to feed kids apple pie if they don’t like apples.” Ann Cooper (she runs the Boulder CO school lunch program, one of the districts that is going back to school chocolate milk free).

    The key to the whole fight comes down, as all else surrounding food, to money: the schools only get federal lunch funds if your school lunch offering includes a grain, a vegetable, a fruit and a protein. And milk. And you only get the funds if kids take three of these five offerings. So chocolate milk, being a popular choice with the kiddies, knocks out one of the three mandatory picks. Given that the easy chocolate milk provides more leeway for kids to pass on mystery meat and gray “green” beans, schools are crying foul at attempts to insist that milk is milk, and chocolate milk is something else entirely.

    Back in November (2009), when the National Dairy Council started its campaign to save chocolate milk at the school lunch counter, I wrote a post somewhere else. It didn’t make it to Candy Professor then, but it seems just as timely now. So here it is, my two cents on the Chocolate Milk Wars:

    Have you raised your hand for chocolate milk? Or have you raised your finger?

    The National Dairy Council (farmers) has teamed up with the Milk Processor Education Program (processors) “to provide the latest facts and science on Chocolate Milk’s role in children’s diets.” Check USA Today (12 November 2009) for a full page ad, or the web site and petition at Seems those pesky activists and parents and nutritionists have gotten together again, and this time they want to take the chocolate milk out of the school lunch room. How dare they! After all, they say, “chocolate milk is the most popular milk choice in schools and kids will drink less milk (and get fewer nutrients) if it’s taken away.”

    Really? Would it be so bad if kids drank less chocolate milk? Yeah, I get that it’s made out of milk. But is it really food? Interestingly, the National Confectioners Association was what brought the chocolate milk promotion to my attention. You know, the candy industry.

    I have been thinking about candy in relation to food in the wake of Michael Pollan’s “defense of food.” Pollan encourages us to eat real food, stuff made from plants and animals in traditional, pre-industrial, recognizable forms. The highly processed, the inert, the “fortified,” the refined: these are products of industry, and not food so much as “food like substances.”

    Once we can discern the difference between food and “food-like substances,” our diet returns to something healthful and sustaining and simple. And if we are mostly eating food, then there is no harm in eating some candy. So long as we’re clear, that candy is not food, not a substitute for food, and not to replace or displace food. Candy is defensible as part of our diet only when we draw a sharp line between food, what we enjoy as we nourish our bodies, and candy, something we eat purely for pleasure.

    Which brings me to chocolate milk. Is it food? or is it candy? Although nobody says it this way exactly, this question is really at the crux of this latest flare up. In fact, this is just the latest salvo in a long-standing fight over the role of candy in school lunches. This was one the candy industry was probably fated to lose, but believe it or not, there was a time when candy was on the “approved” list. Clearly, if the fight now is about chocolate milk rather than chocolate bars, times have changed. But the terms of the fight have stayed eerily constant.

    Chocolate milk is an odd hybrid, with an interesting history of its own. In the nineteenth century, there really was no “chocolate milk” as we know it today. Chocolate in sweetened milk was for sick people, old people, people who couldn’t stomach much else. Chocolate was viewed as providing sustenance and strength to the weak and infirm, a sort of tonic with vaguely healthful properties.

    Chocolate milk in the twentieth century came to be increasingly associated with childhood. Prior to the “chocolate milk revolution” in the 1950s, cold chocolate milk was not really feasible. Hot chocolate was the childhood equivalent of hot coffee, a combination of sweetness and milkiness that seemed essentially infantile. But hot chocolate required heating milk (a delicate operation) and measuring and mixing at the stove. Not difficult, but not something kids would do alone. Instant chocolate milk mix changed the playing field: Nestle, Carnation, Ovaltine were all introduced in the early 1950s, a time when food engineering introduced the TV dinner and other “convenience” monstrosities to the American table. Now children could enjoy delicious chocolate milk any time, with no mess and no trouble. Ads for these products feature cherubic children and pudgy hands mixing and drinking dark brown elixirs.

    Chocolate milk was a big part of twentieth century childhood, to be sure. But chocolate milk at home as a snack or a treat in the context of all the other foods that mother has chosen is one thing. And for the most part, those 1950s kids were skinny and didn’t know a thing about diabetes or pediatric heart disease.

    For most U.S. kids in the twenty first century, chocolate milk every day on the school lunch line is something else. For kids with serious food and health issues, the line between food and candy needs to be drawn, and it needs to be crystal clear. And we all need to acknowledge: chocolate milk is candy. That is to say, chocolate milk should be enjoyed as a treat, occasionally, not as a daily beverage.

    They say kids won’t drink milk unless its flavored. They say at least chocolate milk has the nutrients of milk. They say it’s better than soda.

    By this logic, I should have a screwdriver with my oatmeal every morning. Because otherwise, I just won’t drink that orange juice.

    Teach kids to drink soda, they drink soda. Teach them soda is a bad choice, give them water, they’ll drink water. Chocolate milk is no different. Pandering to the lowest denominator, the sweet tooth, and insisting that children will do no better if given the chance is just patronizing. The school lunch programs are making huge improvements. In the New York City schools, they are eating the whole grain breads, they are learning about fresh fruits and vegetables. Alice Waters has her kids eating okra and kale, for pete’s sake. Will kids drink less milk when it’s not sweet chocolate? Some. But that’s because they had the chocolate to start with. We need a little re-education here. There is no reason they can’t learn to appreciate the difference between real food and nutritionally tarted-up candy.

    August 25, 2010 at 4:34 pm 5 comments

    More Smokin’ Candy

    Color me flabbergasted.

    It’s the “edible Puff Pop.” It is a lollipop. And a pipe. You eat it and you smoke it. And it does not appear to be a joke.

    It’s made by a New Jersey outfit called Smokeclear, Inc. You can see the press release here.

    Now there have always been all kinds of candy pipes and candy cigarettes. But they were just candy. You pretended to smoke them. Pretended, get it? And maybe kids acted all cool and mature and maybe these candy smokes led to all kinds of delinquency, and maybe not. But there was no actual smoke involved.

    The Puff Pop, on the other hand, is a functional smoking implement. The round lollipop has a bowl and a hole and you put your stuff in it and light it and smoke it through the hard candy. Stuff…I don’t know what, surely legal tobacco and not any other wacky weeds…

    These Puff Pops have been tried and tested: the bowl won’t crack or melt when you light your stuff on fire. And they come in yummy flavors: grape, lemon/lime, green apple, blueberry cola and strawberry. It is, as the manufacturer puts it, “an edible pipe that’s user friendly.” Smokeclear expects they will sell in smoke shops, but also in convenience stores. And candy shops, no doubt.

    Because that’s a good idea: edible lollipop pipes. I’ve just spent two weeks researching lollipops and their associations with children, and now this. People, WHAT are you thinking?!

    Related posts:

    August 2, 2010 at 8:59 am 4 comments

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    Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

    Welcome to Candy Professor

    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.

    (C) Samira Kawash

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