It’s Halloween, which means you’re probably stocking up on all sorts of candy to give to kids. Unless you’re the person who gives people entire rotisserie chickens. If you’re looking for candy you’ve seen candy corn all over the place–it’d be weird if you haven’t, considering it’s the most popular Halloween candy. Plus, you normally only see candy corn when spooky season rolls around. When we stop to think about it, though, what even is candy corn?
Candy Corn Origins
Candy corn is said to date as far back as the 1880s, created by a guy named George Renninger. He worked with the Wunderle Company to create something called “butter cream,” alternatively called “chicken corn.” Neither of those names sound particularly appetizing, but chicken corn is their claim to fame.
Candy corn wouldn’t be available in a more widespread commercial fashion until 1898 with the Goelitz Confectionery Company. If you don’t recognize the name Goelitz, you’ll know them as Jelly Belly. You know, that company Ronald Reagan really, really liked for some reason.
Anyway, in 1898 then-Goelitz Confectionery was manufacturing mellowcreme candies, which were basically the same as the butter cream candies Renninger allegedly came up with. They’re basically the same as candy corn, but nowadays you see them as those candy pumpkins that always come with candy corn. Which taste exactly the same. Mellowcreme candies are made by taking corn syrup, honey, and sugar (throw in some food coloring for visual flavor). The mix is called mellowcreme because it has a mellow flavor, and it’s also cream. So candymakers are clearly the creative bunch.
Not that it matters, because like 9 billion pieces of candy corn are produced per year.
You’ve probably figured out that candy corn kind of looks like long corn kernels (like on the cob) from tweets like this. Try it yourself and stack a bunch of candy corn into a cylinder. It’ll work, we promise.
Anyway, in the 1880s lots of candy was being molded into farm plant-like shapes. We had chestnuts, turnips, and clovers. This is also where we got pumpkins–and among them corn. Since it was the 1880s, Americans weren’t really eating corn. It was considered poor food for livestock. You probably eat corn now, though, and that’s because WWI brought a huge wheat shortage that prompted Americans into eating corn. Anyway, if you thought calling early iterations of candy corn “chicken corn” was weird, now you have your answer. It was also called “chicken feed,” which sounds way more depressing.
While candy corn was originally a dedicated fall-time candy, its shape and namesake did evoke the harvest–which eventually got mushed together with Halloween in the 20th century. By the 1950s candy corn became the big Halloween candy, especially as Halloween was increasingly marketed alongside candy. Originally candy corn was just meant to be cheap throwaway candy to give to kids who didn’t know better. That hasn’t really changed.
See if you can name all the candy that will be floating around everywhere on clearance aisles here.