Posts tagged ‘cellophane’

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

    La Cellophane

    dupont cellophane candy ad 1950In a 1925 advertising pamphlet, the newly formed DuPont Cellophane company extolled its new product, “DuPont Cellophane: The New Super Wrap”:

    …as transparent as glass…its smooth surface and lustrous gloss enhance both color and form. … It is germ-proof, odorless and odor-proof, and will preserve freshness and prevent contamination.

    Most importantly, Cellophane promised to improve sales:

    a wrap of Cellophane will permit a clear view of your product so that it can advertise and sell itself at the same time protecting it from handling, dust, germs, bacteria, etc. It is estimated that 90% of all merchandise in the retail store is bought through appeal to the eye. A wrap of Cellophane cannot fail to add materially to the salability of your product through its appearance alone.

    DuPont listed 18 industries and products that were using Cellophane to advantage, including tobacco, meats, drugs, and cosmetics. Number one was candy and confectionery.

    Cellophane was an exciting product in the 1920s. Books and pamphlets were published extolling its uses not only in wrapping and preserving goods, but in crafts as well. The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company commissioned a study investigating the impact of such transparent wrappers on various industries, including the candy industry.

    Whitman, of “Whitman’s Chocolate Sampler Box,” was the first Cellophane customer in America. Transparent wrapping had enormous benefits for candy sales. Customers liked knowing that the candy was protected, and they being able to see what they were getting. One candy retailer reported:

    As an indication of what transparent wrapping will do in increasing and maintaining the sale of the product, last summer we took an item which was slowly but surely losing consumer acceptance, packaged it in a transparent bag, and almost immediately our sales increased.

    DuPont didn’t invent cellophane. A Swiss engineer discovered the material in 1908. As as early as 1914, “La Cellophane” was available to U.S. candy makers, imported from France by Franz Euler and Company and advertised in the major candy trade journals.

    The earliest cellophanes were waterproof, but not impervious to water vapor. This was a problem for candy, but DuPont created a new moisture-proof formulation in 1927, and candy wrapping was never the same. Not every candy seller in the 1920s could see that candy was on the brink of a revolution. When asked about what impact cellophane was likely to have on the candy business, one manufacturer opined:

    I believe that transparent packaging will continue to grow in favor. HoweverI do not believe that they will ever entirely take the place of candies packed in bulk.

    But by the 1950s, cellophane was everywhere. DuPont had expanded its own production, and others had started manufacturing the material. DuPont was the major player, though. The Justice Department went so far as to bring a lawsuit against DuPont in 1947 charging a monopoly on wrapping materials, the famous cellophane anti-trust case. While DuPont’s plans for expansion were held up by the litigation, the company took the extraordinary step of encouraging their competitors to meet the cellophane demand.

    It is true that in a few “nostalgia” shops, candy can still be bought in bulk. But clear plastic wrappers are so common today, we don’t even notice them. Many new strong, transparent and flexible materials have become available for candy packaging. DuPont stopped making cellophane in 1986. But it was cellophane that started the revolution.


    Du Pont Cellophane: The New Super Wrap. (New York: DuPont Cellophane Co., 1925);Transparent wrappings as a sales aid for food products; a report on the experiences of 29 companies. (New York: Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. Policyholders Service Bureau, 1932);Craft with “Cellophane” cellulose film.(New York : Du Pont Cellophane Co., 1935); The History of Cellophane, by Mary Bellis at

    More: For an extended discussion of the rapid rise of wrappers in candy manufacture between 1914 and 1917, see my article The Candy  Prophylactic: Danger, Disease, and Children’s Candy around 1916, in particular the section titled “Covers and Wrappings: the Rise of Hygenic Candy”

    The New York Times obituary of Karl Prindle, who invented the waterproofing formula for Du Pont, tells another part of the cellophane story.

    September 23, 2009 at 2:54 pm 5 comments

    Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

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