Posts filed under ‘WWII to 1960s’

1954: The Plague of Overweight and the Salvation of Reduced Calorie Foods (Except Candy)

In the early 1950s, Americans were gripped by a renewed fervor for reducing.

Life insurance studies had suggested that as many as 5 million Americans were obese, and another 20 million overweight. According to these measures, weight problems afflicted nearly 1 in 5 of the total population. Public health officials began sounding the alarm in 1952, and by 1954, even mainstream publications like LIFE Magazine had joined in promoting the new view on America’s waistline: ‘The most serious health problem in the U.S. today is obesity.”  Sound familiar?

Today scientists are looking to high fructose corn syrup, estrogen disruptors, carbohydrate overload, and metabolic disorders to understand why, despite half a century of diet and exercise, despite lo-cal and lo-fat and lo-carb and hi-fiber, Americans keep getting fatter. Overeating just doesn’t explain the whole problem.

But in the 1950s, the problem was firmly located in individual behavior. Fatness was explicitly associated with weakness, venality, sin. LIFE Magazine put it plainly:  “The uncompromising truth is that obesity is caused by gluttony.”  The solution? Eat less. Less food, to be sure. But in an age dominated by the precision of science, the real measure of “less” was not volume but calories.

The food industry was quick to respond to the new market for reduced-calorie foods. Saccharine had been available since the late 1800s, prescribed by doctors for diabetic use but occasionally “abused” by dieters. Saccharine was of limited appeal, as it had a bitter and unpleasant aftertaste and was not easily adapted to cooking and canning processes. But a new synthetic sweetener, cylcamate, became available in 1950 under the trade name Sucaryl. Where saccharine had primarily been sold over the counter in pharmacies, cyclamate was quickly adopted by food processors, especially canned food and beverages. Saccharine sweetened drinks had been around since the 1920s but were not widespread or popular. But between 1950 and 1954, artificially sweetened drinks exploded. Well known brands like Lo-Cal and No-Cal were selling millions of cases, and there were something like 150 brands of cyclamate and saccharine sodas and drinks on the market. And “diet” foods including canned fruits and vegetables, skim milk, and lo-cal desserts moved out of the fringes of specialty “health” stores and into the aisles of mainstream grocery markets.

The marketing of artificial sweeteners was agressive and played directly into America’s new obsession with calorie counting. The consumer campaign for Sucaryl used lines like: “You can save a lot of calories by sweetening with Sucaryl and you can’t taste the difference.” And: “If you are not counting calories, you don’t need this new, non-fattening sweetener. If you are, you do.”

In this ad you can see how “eat less” doesn’t mean eat less food. The low calorie dessert looks and (presumably) tastes the same as its full calorie counterpart. Sucaryl makes reducing seem almost magical: you can’t see or even notice what is different about the Sucaryl dessert. Just make the right choice of sweeteners, and your weight problem is solved.

Sucaryl proclaimed itself “the new non-fattening sweetener that tastes just like sugar.” Which is to say, sugar is the fattening sweetener. Who was going to want to eat what was fattening? By implication, everyone needed to be counting calories to stave off the dread overweight, and so everyone should be using Sucaryl.

It was a shot fired over the bow, make that the bowl, of sugar. And candy was directly in the line of fire.

Saccharine and cyclamate made sweetness distinct from fattening. So America could have its sweet sodas and pies and canned peaches. But nobody knew how to make candy out of saccharine or cyclamate. Candy sweetness was sugar sweetness. What was a candy lover to do? The line seemed clear: candy — sugar — fattening — gluttony — sin.

Next time: candy redemption.

“Those  Foods for Dieters,” Kiplingers Personal Finance, Jan 1954 p. 13-15. “The Plague of Overweight,” LIFE Magazine, 8 March 1954, p. 120-124. Sucaryl ad, LIFE Magazine 5 Dec. 1955 p. 110

August 11, 2010 at 11:58 am 2 comments

Ancient Candies Sell New Technologies, 1950s

Today I wanted to share with you a couple of candy industry ads from the 1950s that caught my eye. When I saw them, I wondered, why the sudden appearance of these “ancient” motifs and references?

Here we have Monsanto Chemical Company advertising their Flavor Chemicals in 1952 (yes, its the same Monsanto). This is the fruit and flower of modern science, the efforts of chemists at the cutting edge of food engineering. And what image do they use to promote their oh-so-modern product? Ancient Egyptians and Classic Greeks in togas.

And two years later, Annheuser-Busch brings a full-blown pharaonic fantasy to promote its starches and corn syrups.

This ad describes candy as “one of the oldest manufactured food products.” I think this phrase tips us off as to what these ads are doing.

The food business was undergoing a major technological revolution in the 1950s. All sorts of food engineering and food chemistry, much of it developed for the military during WWII, was hitting the marketplace in the form of new kinds of food, new kinds of packaging, and new ways of cooking and eating.

It was “better living through chemistry,” to be sure. But as much as there was the excitement of progress and the new, there was also anxiety: after all, was  chemistry really food?

I think these ads are about creating psychological links between the old and the new to make the new seem more a continuation of the old, more familiar and less of a dramatic break.

The problem is not so acute for Annheuser-Busch’s starches and corn syrups, perhaps. After all, they have some recognizable relation to corn. But Monsanto was peddling additives that were radically new and absolutely artificial: ethavan, vanillin, coumarin and methyl salicylate, flavorings that created the effects of “real” foods like vanilla and mint. The question on some people’s minds must have been: Was Monsanto selling chemicals? Or food ingredients?

Monsanto reassures its customers of its rightful place in the candy kitchen by establishing links to the candy past. “Hebrews, Greeks, Romans… history-making men of nearly every nationality… have listed candy among their foods,” and now Monsanto joins this distinguished line as part of the “modern Candy Industry.”

Note: yes, that’s the same Annheuser-Busch better known for beer. For the full story on how a brewer ends up provisioning the candy trade, see my post Beer and Candy III. For more on Monsanto’s chemicals in the candy industry, see my posts Please Don’t Eat the Wrapper and A Complete, Well-Balanced Diet.

Ads appeared in Confectioners Journal: Monsanto, Feb 1952; Annheuser-Busch, Aug 1954.

April 7, 2010 at 8:30 am 2 comments

Candy Aspirin, 1952

Bayer introduced the world’s first flavored, chewable children’s aspirin tablet in 1952. This was a major breakthrough in children’s medicine technology.  One word said it all:  “It tastes like your children’s favorite candy!”

This new formulation was candy tasting all the way through, unlike earlier “candy” aspirin tablets marketed for children that were bitter medicine surrounded by a sugar coating. So the Bayer tablet could be chewed or dissolve in your mouth, or mixed into a drink or even into food.

It seemed the answer to a mother’s prayer: “Here’s good news, mother! No more worrisome coaxing, fretting or fussing when your children need aspirin. For the best asprin money can buy now tastes so delicious, they take it with a smile.”

Of course, if asprin tastes like candy, there is a pretty big problem: kids eating asprin like it is candy. Within three years of the introduction of chewable aspirin, the U.S. FDA had convened a panel of experts to make recommendations to improve the safety of aspirin and reduce childhood deaths due to aspirin poisoning. The panel recommended that aspirin makers develop a “safety closure or container” to prevent children from gobbling down the pills. And so was sown the seed for the child-proof cap.

Related Posts:

  • The Inventor of Candy Medicine
  • Sources: Bayer ad, Reading Eagle, June 15, 1952; John Troan, “Accidental Aspirin Deaths Set Up Search for Cure All,” Pittsburgh Press, July 17 1955.

    March 12, 2010 at 8:33 am Leave a comment

    Fresher in Cellophane

    Oooh...that candy looks good!

    This 1958 Du Pont ad declares: “Candy’s at its best in Cellophane!”

    And it was no exaggeration. From the 1930s through the 1960s, Cellophane was the very best wrapping material for candy. Cellophane was transparent and impermeable. This made it the ideal wrapping material for Americans who were worried about germs but who were also very picky shoppers. Cellophane meant they could see what they were getting, but still be confident that “germs” were kept out.

    From the very beginning, candy makers loved cellophane. Some industry observers dated the birth of the modern candy trade to 1923, the year Du Pont began manufacturing Cellophane in the U.S. Cellophane revolutionized the packaging of candies. Individually wrapped candies sparkled, like glowing gems, a huge leap from the old dull waxed papers. Cellophane could be make into transparent bags for bulk candies, the whole package a tantalizing window on the candy inside. For the high-end market, cellophane covered and sealed fancy boxed candies, guaranteeing hygienic freshness. The candy buying consumers certainly found these qualities appealing. But Cellophane also helped the candy seller. Candy wrapped in Cellophane would maintain its freshness and visual appeal for longer periods, so merchants worried less about old goods. And wrapped candies could be sold as a “self-service” item to be stocked on modern grocery store shelves, which would mean fewer expensive clerks to serve the customers.

    1936: “Delicious hard candy, Can NOW be kept handy!”

    “New, clean wrap is a sweet idea!”

    Ads from the 1930s emphasized cleanliness and convenience. The individually wrapped candies in these ads will be happy in a pocket or handbag, with no worry for sticky messes. The girl peering over the candy bin seems ready to reach in for a handfull. There is no clerk standing over her waiting for her order. She can just help herself! Compare this image of the open candy bins to the image of a 1900s candy store in Ye Olde Candy Shoppe.

    1937: “Each piece always clean, never sticky, easy to carry!”

    Many of these ads feature sweet little girls. But of course: little girls are made of “sugar and spice and everything nice,” and what is nicer or sweeter than fresh candy!

    Here’s adorable Shirley Temple pouring out a candy dish in a 1954 ad.

    In the 1950s ads, Du Pont emphasized the official line of the NCA, “Candy is Delicious Quick-Energy Food.” The advantage of Cellophane is to keep the candy fresh. In this and the ad at the top of the page, the candy is wrapped in Cellophane bag. Compare this to the 1930s ads, which suggest the little girls might be choosing individual pieces of candy. By the 1950s, the children’s candy market had moved away from little penny candies (see Langston Hughes Sings the Blues for Penny Candy).

    1955: “You can be sure candy is fresh and clean–and you can see to choose the kind you like best–when you buy CANDY IN CELLOPHANE.”

    Is the “you” who buys the candy the mother? She’s probably the one who cares that the candy is fresh and clean. Or is it the kids? They can choose the kind they like best. The jelly beans they are holding are pre-packaged in the Cellophane bag. It’s a pretty big sack, not likely to be purchased by a child alone. Candy here is something mother buys for her children, not something they go out to buy for themselves.

    Related Posts:

  • La Cellophane
  • Langston Hughes Sings the Blues for Penny Candy
  • Ye Olde Candy Shoppe
  • January 22, 2010 at 11:41 am 2 comments

    Pez and the 1950s Children’s Candy Market

    Candy Land observed a moment of silence on December 15, 2009, to mark the passing of Curtis Allina, presumed inventor of the Pez character dispenser. The first Pez marketed for children were full-bodied likenesses of Santa and a robot, in 1955. Pez dispensers were not the first or the only candy toy novelty. But no other candy toy has approached the brilliance of the Pez Head, in its simple appeal and infinite variety.

    When Pez came to the U.S. from Austria in the early 1950s, it was as an adult peppermint sold in a suave dispenser that resembled James Bond’s gold cigarette lighter, and shared its sleek cosmopolitan gleam. Such trifles were more successful in Vienna than in Vermont, though, and Pez stumbled in the U.S. market. Then Allina, or someone working for him, had the idea to re-package the mints as fruit-flavored children’s candies. But why did they imagine that marketing candy to children might be a winning bet?

    The fact was, no one much noticed those little candy munching kiddies before the 1950s.

    Oh, the kids bought candy, to be sure. One or two pennies at a time, hoarded and carefully extracted from a sticky pocket after spending an hour loitering in front of the candy displays. Hardly the most promising customer base. The penny candy trade was always at the edges of the candy business. No respectable adult with more than five or ten cents to rub together would bother with the little shops where kids hung out and clerks spent the day swatting away grubby hands and dripping noses. In articles on cost accounting and business-building published in the candy journals, bean-counters encouraged candy makers and candy sellers to give up the penny trade: it just didn’t pay.

    World War II pretty much killed off penny candy. There was sugar rationing, and much candy production was diverted to supply the troops with their requisite sweets. Candy ads from the period encourage Americans to be patient if they can’t find their favorite candies in stock, shorages were just a part of the war effort. Whatever by way of sugar, chocolate and the like that was left for the domestic market went to the manufacture of higher priced, more profitable goods. But of course, there were still children, and they still were going to be eating candy.

    Around 1947, as the war wound down and things started getting back to normal, candy makers began looking around and noticing all those candy-hungry kids. Things were different, now, to be sure. Kids weren’t getting pennies the way they used to. The unwrapped penny goods were, in any case, gone. And mothers were more concerned both with regulating the money their kids had to spend, and with exercising more control over their children’s candy habits. At the same time, modern ideas about advertising, marketing, and packaging encouraged candy makers and sellers to start thinking more creatively about their customers and how to build their business.

    At first, the idea was just to draw the attention of children: what price? what sort of wrapper? what sort of display? And to soothe the mothers: this candy is wholesome! this candy is clean!

    But by 1952, the idea of a distinct children’s market had begun to inspire amazing innovations in promotion and sales which far surpassed tentative explorations of the late 1940s. A trade article on “Candy Packaging for the Small Fry” suggests the imaginative range of possibilities for packaging: There were “Play Money Pops” with cardboard coins; “Wild West Pops” with small Western toys; “Tasty Pops” which promised an educational candy experience with their new “Wheel-a-Word combination spelling game and bank that teaches children how to spell, and can be used for hoarding pennies as well.” And then there were the packages themselves: fancy boxes that would serve for jewelry or a picture frame when the candy was done; musical drums for pounding or, for the young ladies, drum-shaped pocketbooks filled with candy; and decorated glass tumblers featuring bunnies and sports themes. A precursor to Pez might be the “Clicker Bird”: a metal bird with a long neck and moveable head filled with candy. An extra notable feature was the built-in clicker: “Children love them, and the clickers are guaranteed to drive mothers to distraction.”

    Candy filled toys were common and popular in the mid 1950s; if you wanted to sell in the children’s market, you needed a novelty, an extra, something to stand out and add to the candy itself. The Pez dispensers were part of a wave of innovation in children’s candy packaging. You’ll still find many novelty toy packages in the children’s candy rack at the drug store today. But Pez does stand out, as an idea that allowed for infinite variation in the same familiar package, appealing to new generations of children while gripping the adult imagination as well.

    Sources: Margalit Fox, “Curtis Allina Dies at 87; He Put the Heads on Pez”, New York Times 5 January 2010; B.G. Collins, “Let’s Sell Candy to the Children,” Confectioners Journal June 1947, p. 35-36; Ann Marie Lawler, “Candy Packaging for the Small Fry,” Confectioners Journal May 1952, p. 25-26.

    Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ionan/ / CC BY-NC 2.0

    January 8, 2010 at 7:21 am Leave a comment

    Candy Fortification: Synthetic Vitamin A

    Spoonful of dietary supplements

    In the 1950s, vitamins were all the rage. Prior to the work of the chemists, the usual way Americans took their vitamin A was in cod liver oil. But what if instead, people could get their vitamin A from something yummy, say, candy?

    Everybody needs vitamin A. So it was a potentially lucrative project for the chemical industry to develop a synthetic, stable form of Vitamin A. The prize was enormous: the military and the government were very interested in increasing the nutritive value of foods that could be stored and transported easily. In particular, the U.S. Army was interested in fortifying Army rations including candy, peanut butter, milk powder, and crackers with a palatable, stable form of vitamin A.

    In 1952, Pfizer developed a technique of gelatin stabilization that minimized the deterioration of the vitamin, and contributed no objectionable taste or odor. They tested chocolate bars fortified with the gelatinized vitamin A and found 92 percent retention after four weeks storage at 45 C (they don’t specify, but these must have been the modified military chocolate, as ordinary chocolate would have gotten pretty melty at this temperature, equivalent to 113 F).

    How much chocolate was consumed with vitamin A supplementation we don’t know. But we do know that synthetic vitamin A in amounts in excess of the RDA is pretty toxic. It’s usually called “retinol,” and today it is more familiar as a skin treatment than as a food additive. On the other hand, a candy bar that could prevent vitamin A deficiency and treat your acne flare ups might be pretty useful.

    Source: “Vitamin A Fortification Research,” Candy Industry 12 February 1952.

    Related post:

  • A Complete, Well-Balanced Diet
  • December 7, 2009 at 7:54 am 1 comment

    Howdy Doody, brought to you by Candy

    “The auto took American families out of their homes…Television put them back on the sofa!”

    In 1950, it was all about television. Anyone who wanted to sell anything to anybody could see that from here on out, TV was it.

    Candy wanted in. In 1948, the candy manufacturer Mason, Au and Magenheimer experimented with sponsorship of a little program called “The Howdy Doody Show.” Within six weeks, its brand new “Mason Bar” was being promoted by 90 percent of the distributors in the market. Others quickly followed suit. By 1950, the “Candy and Soft Drink” category was second only to “Food and Food Products” in total network advertisements.

    Candy companies sponsored many of America’s favorite early TV shows:

    Peter, Paul Inc. sponsored Buck Rogers

    Mars, Inc. sponsored Howdy Doody

    Bunte Bros. sponsored Cactus Jim

    M&M Ltd. sponsored  Super Circus

    S.F. Whitman & Sons sponsored Show of Shows

    Philadelphia Chewing Gum Corp. sponsored Mr. Magic

    Doran Confectionery Co. sponsored Unk’n Andy

    Gold Medal Candy Corp. sponsored Magic Clown

    Walter Johnson Candy Co. sponsored Captain Video

    Quaker City Chocolate & Confectionery Co. sponsored Lucky Pup

    One advertising executive offered a note of caution to the sudden enthusiasm of the candy trade:

    The candy business, never before particularly noted for a desire to spend more than a bare buck or two in advertising, has suddenly begun behaving like Diamond Jim Brady having a big evening at Rectors! But take it easy, gentlemen, even Diamond Jim must have occasionally felt a little dull the morning after. Not that TV isn’t all we say it is, –because it is and then some. It’s just that if you don’t know what you’re getting into, or you don’t hire someone who does,– then look out you don’t get your fingers all jammed up in this nice new toy.

    Source: Franklyn W. Dyson, “Television and Candy—An Expert Tells Who, What, When, of Programming” Candy Industry 29 Aug. 1950

    Related Posts:

  • Candy Discovers Television, 1950
  • A Musical TV Tribute to Candy, 1951
  • December 4, 2009 at 6:02 pm 2 comments

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    Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

    Welcome to Candy Professor

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