Posts filed under ‘Packaging’

Candy Feeding Bags

Every once in a while I run into an old candy idea that seems ripe for revival. Who’s going to be the candy entrepreneur who brings back “Candy Feeding Bags,” last seen back in 1911?

This one-cent novelty had a lot going for it: convenience, portability, and flavor. You could choose pineapple, strawberry, peach, raspberry, lemon, chocolate, vanilla, or peppermint. The tube running into the bag is a licorice stick, about 8 inches long and 1/2 inch thick. The idea is that you bite the end off the licorice then suck the flavor powder up through the licorice straw:

The powder mixed with the flavor of the licorice produces a combination hard to beat. When the powder is all gone then you eat the tube. Can you beat it?

Sort of like a Fun Dip or Lik-A-Stick crossed with a Pixie Stick, mixed in with a licorice whip.
Of course, in 1911 most people would associate feeding bags with work horses or mules. There still weren’t many motor cars around, so horses pulling wagons would have been a common sight. And to keep those horses working all day long, they would have a bag of grain tied around their snouts for easy snacking.

So why not a feed bag filled with candy? I love the idea of kids running around with these things tied to their necks. Keeps the kiddies happy with their candy feed all day long. Can you beat it? I don’t think you can!

Candy Feeding Bag ad from International Confectioner, April 1911. Feed bag image from Cowboy Showcase.

March 17, 2010 at 8:26 am 8 comments

Kissing Cousins: the Hershey’s Kiss and the Wilbur Bud

Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses: do we need to say more? Everybody knows the Kiss. Hershey’s Kiss is certainly one of top contenders for “American Candy Idol.” But today, Candy Professor takes you back to a time when the Kiss was not the Kiss, back to a time when candy brands were still a new idea, and candy makers didn’t always know the best ways to profit from their candy innovations.

Hershey’s today is one of the major candy companies in the world, boasting annual sales in excess of $4 billion dollars. But around 1900, Hershey’s was one among many contenders for America’s top chocolate maker. The big business in chocolate at that time was not so much direct retail products, but selling various coatings and chocolate ingredients to candy makers large and small. Rivals like Stollwerck Brothers of New York and Chicago, H. O. Wilbur and Sons of Philadelphia, and Rockwood and Co.of Brooklyn were promoting their own chocolate goods, each promising purity, quality and taste unrivaled.  Finished candy goods were, for many of these companies, a side line to the real action in wholesale cocoa and chocolate.

Milton Hershey was early to realize the potential for selling eating chocolate on a national scale. He developed his own technique for making milk chocolate and began manufacturing small batches in 1900. Hershey’s chocolate bars were a huge success, and he quickly expanded, moving to an enormous new factory in the town that would come to be known as Hershey, Pennsylvania in 1905. The first full year of manufacture in the new factory, sales of Hershey’s chocolate products topped $1 million; that’s about $24 million in today’s dollars.

By 1907, the year the Kiss was introduced, sales had doubled to $2 million. Even then, Hershey was a major player. But other chocolate houses had their own eating chocolate products.  And when Hershey came up with the “Milk-Maid Chocolate Kiss” back in 1907, it wasn’t the only foil-wrapped chocolate bite in town.

Confectioners Journal ad 1909 (detail)

Muncey's Magazine ad, 1911

Rival chocolate manufacturer H.O. Wilbur and Son had been selling a bite-sized foil-wrapped conical chocolate drop called the “Wilbur Bud” since 1894. You wouldn’t know it today, but back in the 1900s, Wilbur set the standard for those little foil-wrapped chocolates. The candy journal International Confectioner waxed rhapsodic over the beauty and hygiene of Wilbur’s candy in 1914:

Each piece is wrapped separately; they are packed like jewels. A large box of Wilbeurbuds can lie open several days before it is all eaten. …  Our little Wilburbuds can’t go stale–each is wrapped in foil.

It was Hershey that was the copy cat.

And Hershey wasn’t the only one. H.O. Wilbur even went to court in 1909 to try to stop the imitators. One of these might have been Rockwood’s Chocolate Dainties, which were sold four for one cent. In their little foil wrapper, they would have been indistinguishable from Wilbur’s Buds or Hershey’s Kisses or any other similar chocolate.

Unwrapped, the Wilbur Bud was quite distinctive; the bottom of the candy was molded into a flower shape and the letters W-I-L-B-U-R embossed in each petal.

In contrast, the Hershey’s Kiss then as now isn’t much to look at. It is just a plain cone, its bottom flat and unadorned. While this perhaps was less lovely to behold, it did mean the Kiss could be manufactured by dropping the chocolate on a flat belt, rather than needing special molds. This would eventually matter quite a lot, but in 1907 the Kiss’s plain-Jane looks would have been a distinct disadvantage.

The decisive moment for the Hershey’s Kiss was 1921, when new manufacturing equipment allowed the foil wrapping to be automated, and also allowed for the inclusion of the “plume” that extends from the top of every Chocolate Kiss. By spring of 1922 Hershey’s was taking out full page ads blaring “Insist upon having the “GENUINE” Sweet Milk Chocolate Hershey’s KISSES. Be Sure They Contain the Identification Tag ‘HERSHEY’S.” The plume was trademarked in 1924, meaning that no other conical foil wrapped chocolate could use the same technique to stand out.

Wilbur, and many other small American chocolate concerns, eventually fell behind Hershey in the race for market share. Milton Hershey was a generous philanthropist as well as a brilliant business man, and the success of the company in dominating the American chocolate scene is a fascinating story of doing well by doing good. Today, Hershey’s Kisses are a multi-million dollar share of the American candy market. And Wilbur’s Chocolate Buds? You can still buy them by mail-order, or out of a little Wilbur Chocolates storefront in Lititz, Pennsylvania.

So why are Hershey’s Kisses called Kisses, anyway? Read more in my next post, “Why a Kiss is Just a Kiss.”

Image of today’s Wilbur Buds from www.wilburbuds.com

Kisses image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mtsofan/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

March 1, 2010 at 8:30 am 22 comments

Tootsie Roll: Penny Candy That’s Not

Here’s an ad for Tootsie Rolls that ran in February and March 1910:

Chocolate Tootsie Rolls are “a hit with all.” And just whom do we mean by “all”? Let’s see. We have the lady at leisure with a book in one hand and a Tootsie in the other. Or for the working woman, a Tootsie chew at the typewriter. Tootsie is for the sporting types as well, as we see Lady offering a morsel to a burly line backer. At home, Mama might offer a bite to her sweet one. Look, there’s Junior, snacking on a Tootsie on his way home from school. And even Officer Nightstick enjoys his Tootsie. Men and women, young and old, leisured and working, at play, school, home or office: everybody eats Tootsie Rolls.

Tootsie Rolls is up to something interesting in this ad. They are selling a piece of candy at the price of one cent: penny candy. But “penny candy” is cheap, in price and quality, and considered suitable only for children. And the penny candy market is the very bottom. If you want a big piece of the candy pie, you need to sell up.

Stern & Saalberg, the makers of the Chocolate Tootsie Roll, had a couple of ideas. First was the packaging. Whether Tootsie Rolls were the first penny candy to be wrapped in paper is impossible to say. Paper wrapping machines were common by 1908, the year Tootsie Rolls were first marketed, and other candies large and small were sold wrapped. But the wrapper on the Tootsie Roll is distinctive, the shape is distinctive, and the display of all those Rolls lined up in their case is quite eye catching. And while “penny candy” was usually brightly colored to catch the child’s eye, Tootsie Roll was wrapped in more “sophisticated” tones of gold and chocolate brown.

The power of syllogism also came in hand for making the Tootsie Roll stand out in the penny field. The copy on this ad reads: “Retailed at one cent each but no more to be classed with the ordinary run of Penny Goods than a Plate of Ice Cream with a Snowball.” Put on your SAT hats: Snowball is to Ice Cream as Penny Good is to Tootsie Roll. Tootsie Roll comes out way ahead in this game of logic.

It wasn’t long, though, before the obvious solution presented itself. In April 1910, a new ad appeared proclaiming “We HAD to pack them in 5 and 10c. packages–everybody asked us to–so here they are, the neatest style and biggest value ever put into a 5 or 10c package.” :

Of course, that didn’t mean that you were getting a special deal. As you can see in this re-design of the package in 1913, a 5 cent box gives you 5 one cent candies, and likewise for 10 cents. But you do get a nice box to go with it.

Sources: Stern & Saalberg ads for Tootsie Rolls from Confectioners Journal (1910); 1913 packaging illustrated in International Confectioner (1913)

February 19, 2010 at 8:24 am 3 comments

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

    Taking Candy from a Soldier

    U.S. soldiers in the nineteen-teens were distinguished by many virtues: their bravery, their manliness, and above all, for their craving for sweets.

    Rations in the Army around 1916 included bread, potatoes, bacon and beans or fresh meat, cheese, coffee, tea, butter, milk, sugar, an orange or an apple, pepper, salt, and 1/4 pound sugar per day. Given such blandly nutritious fare, it wasn’t a surprise that the boys serving in the military would be glad of some candy.

    In a report on military morale in 1917, Dr. Naismith, a profesor of physical education at University of Kansas, encouraged gifts of candy to accompany letters from home, in preference of “sob letters and night gowns,” typical items that Naismith called “the most worrying and useless things the boys on the border last summer received from home.” As Dr. Naismith noted, “his appetite for sweets, too, is very keen. The army ration, wholesome and nourishing, hasn’t many trimmings, so candy always is warmly welcomed by the boys.” .

    The call for candy did not go unanswered. In August 1917, Wallace and Co. of Brooklyn began advertising the “Service Package” to retail dealers. This box of confection was “designed and packed for the boys” and meant to be purchased on subscription: the customer would pay, and the retailer would send out the package on a regular basis. This would be an easy sale: “We know there is nothing a soldier or sailor on active duty appreciates more than candy. His chances of buying candy for himself are very small, therefore such a gift, delivered by Uncle Sam’s Postal Department, is a most welcome addition to the service rations and a cheerful remembrance from home.” And what would the happy soldier receive in his Service Package? One package each of lemon drops, wild cherry drops, and broken candy, two rations of eating chocolate, and two packages of chewing gum, all wrapped in a box covered with inspirational images of soldiers at salute, cannons, explosions, and the American eagle.

    Even before the U.S. joined the European war, the soldiers’ love of candy was a common theme. By 1915 there were reports that “one of the finest old American slang terms is about to succumb to the stern demands of war.” Where Americans used to say “taking candy from a baby,” now it would be more accurate to describe that tearful tug of war as “taking candy from a soldier.” One pundit went so far as to suggest a novel military strategy based on candy: “Put a chocolate statue of the Kaiser in the square at Berlin and our men will take it in a week” (attributed to Sir John French, British Army Inspector-General).

    By 1916, confectioners were viewing the impending war with a certain optimism, as a huge marketing opportunity:

    We know that a country at war does not lose its desire for confectionery. The European war has taught us however that huge standing armies consume huge quantities of candy, and it is a fact that thousands upon thousands of men who seldom if ever eat candy before, begin to crave for sweetmeats after they feel the rigors of active army life.

    Before World War I, candy had been seen primarily as the province of lovers and children. No longer: the experience of war would make candy a man’s game. The market for candy created by the war was the theme of the 1916 address by R. F. Mackenzie, president of the National Confectioners Association (NCA), at the annual convention:

    The world must have its sweets. As the wise man has said, ’Candy’s fair in love and war.’ The lover demands his package of bon-bons with which to propitiate his sweetheart; and the veteran of the tranches requests his strength-renewing tablet of chocolate.

    As U.S. soldiers returned to civilian life in the roaring 1920s, their candy appetite propelled an enormous boom in candy invention, production, and sales. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the American candy business of today–and especially the primacy of the candy bar–is the legacy of the dough-boys ’appetite for sweets.’

    Sources: “The Chocolate Soldier,” International Confectioner October 1915, p. 36; “Preparedness,” International Confectioner June 1916, p. 39; R.F. Mackenzie speech to NCA, 10 May 1916, International Confectioner May 1916, p. 41-42. Wallace and Company “Service Package” ad, International Confectioner August 1917, p. 14-15. Dr. Naismith quotation, International Confectioner June 1917, 61.

    January 18, 2010 at 7:34 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

    Candies For Trick or Treat in the 1950s

    Close up view of a Halloween bag storing candy sweets

    Halloween is coming. Trick-or-Treat and … CANDY!

    It’s hard to believe, but back in the 1950s, Halloween wasn’t really a candy holiday.

    Before the 1940s, most Americans had never heard of trick-or-treat. And as trick-or-treat caught on after World War II, treats were various and mostly not candy. Typical treats included cookies, popcorn balls, nuts, coins, and also jelly beans and candy corn, loose and unwrapped. And of course the occasional rock.

    Life Magazine doesn’t have any ads for candy that mention trick-or-treat before 1953. In the October 26, 1953 issue, Fleer Dubble Bubble ran an ad that said “Treat the Kids this Halloween with Dubble Bubble.” The accompanying drawing features a woman handing gum to a pack of costumed kids. There’s a little black cat sitting at her feet. Think “Bewitched” but brunette.

    Mars, Inc. was another of the very early manufacturers promoting candy for trick-or-treat. The October 25, 1954 issue of Life features an ad for Milky Way bars promoting the “Haunting Flavor” of its “three layer treat.” The image shows a ghost eating a Milky Way. Fleer Dubble Bubble also ran an ad in the same issue with a masked trick or treater ringing a doorbell, a clever visual reference to the early “gangster” origins of trick-or-treat.

    The association of candy with Halloween was not obvious to everyone, though. Other products pitched trick-or-treat  as an occasion to spread their own kind of goodness. The October 25, 1954 issue of Life included a Kellogg’s ad for cereal Snack-Paks that reads “Sweet treats for little kids!” and shows a woman handing a box of Frosted Flakes to the Trick or Treaters. In 1959, the October 26 issue featured trick-or-treat theme ads for Hawaiian Punch (“treats for thirsty tricksters”), Kool Aid (“loot for the trick or treaters”), and my own personal favorite for weird Halloween tie-in, Dutch Masters Cigars (costumed kids hold a cigar box out to dad: “No trick…all treat”).

    Anything could be a Halloween treat. And candy advertised around Halloween might not even make a Halloween reference. In 1954 and later years, Brach’s ran an ad for chocolate peanuts which made no mention of the season or the holiday. Mars ran an ad for the Mars bar in the October 29,1956 issue, but it is a general ad that makes no reference to Halloween.

    Most candy in the 1950s, even if it was advertised for Halloween, didn’t have any special  packaging or wrapping. The first ad I’ve found for specially packaged trick-or-treat candy bar miniatures is from Curtiss, in 1960: “the goblins ‘ll get you if you don’t treat ’em right!” Mom is holding a bowl with assorted Baby Ruth and Butterfinger bars. They are “miniature” compared to regular, sure, but kids in those days were getting a “mini” about three times the size of today’s Halloween treat size!

    (CORRECTION Oct 15, 2010: I have since found ads much earlier mini-bars advertised for Halloween, as this from 1951 (Hershey’s “mini,” “small size” Baby Ruth and Butterfinger [Curtiss]. Were there others in the 1950s? When did the mini size become wide spread?).

    I found these pictures of some of the earliest candy packages that refer explicitly to trick-or-treat, both from the mid 1950s:

    Heath halloween package 1955

    This Heath package is from 1955. It is a regular 24 box of Heath bars, with a special sleeve that could be removed if the merchandise stayed on the shelf after the holiday. This kind of multi-purpose package suggests that Halloween wasn’t sending candy flying off the shelf.

    halloween package 1956

    This hexagonal carton is an award winning package distributed by the Sierra Candy Company in 1956. Its terribly clever: ears sick out the sides for a comic effect, while a menacing toothsome grin and googly eyes offer a peek a the candy inside.

    Sources: Life Magazine courtesy of Google Books (tip: to see a larger image of the ad, click on the single page view in the Google viewer after clicking my link); Confectioners Journal Sept. 1955 p. 24, April 1956 p. 36.

    October 26, 2009 at 6:50 am 9 comments

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    Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

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