What is the history of candy corn? When was the treat invented and by whom?

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Every Halloween and Thanksgiving, people look forward to a tasty sweet treat called candy corn. It is a triangular candy which is yellow at the base, orange in the middle, and white at the tip, and each kernel is approximately three times larger than a real kernel of corn. It is no surprise that the creator of this tri-colored candy was a confectionary employee. George Renninger was working for the Wunderlee Candy company when he invented the candy corn in the 1880s, and his company was the first to produce it. In 1900, the Goelitz Candy Company began producing the colorful treats and is still producing it today, though the company name has changed to the Jelly Belly Candy Company.

Two things probably contributed to the candy corn's popularity. First, the country was much more rural and farm-based than it is today, so candy in the form of a corn kernel was particularly appealing. Second, a three-colored candy was something they had never seen before, and the people loved it. 

Because the candy was so labor intensive to make, it was only manufactured as a seasonal product, primarily available in late summer through the fall. In the beginning, a crew of men were assigned to make this candy for the fall months.

Not much about the candy has changed over the years, though of course most of the work is now done by machines rather than by hand as it once was. Marshmallow and fondant are added to the sugar/corn syrup mixture and poured, one layer at a time, into cornstarch trays with the kernel shape imprinted into them. In the early days, men poured each colored layer by buckets across the candy molds and then drew a string across the top of the molds to level off each layer of the marshmallow fondant mixture. Now machines do all of that, but it still requires three passes with three colors to create the finished candy corn product. Today the candies are also given a confectioner's glaze once they have cooled to add a slight shine to the kernels.

The original candy corn in the traditional shape and colors is still readily available and popular; however, many innovations have been added to the product over the years. Candy corn now comes in various shapes, such as pumpkins, as well as a wide variety of colors and flavors.

Chocolate mallow fondant has been added to some candy corn, as has sour apple-flavored mallow fondant. The beloved product has expanded to other holidays and is colored accordingly: red, white and pink for Valentine's Day; red, white, and green for Christmas; and an assortment of pastel colors with white for Easter. In Canada, blackberry cobbler candy corn is a popular fall treat. Whatever the changes in shapes, colors, and flavors, candy corn is an integral part of the confectionary world in America. It has been here for more than a hundred years, and it is not likely to go away any time soon. 

Wiggin42 | Student

Candy corn was invented by George Renninger of the Wunderlee Candy Company in the 1880s. Originally, producing this confectionery delight was an incredibly time consuming process and was therefore only available from March to November. Sugar, water, and corn syrup were mixed in giant kettles. Workers then mixed in fondant which creates that creamy candy corn goodness. The mixture was then colored and poured into individual molds by hand. Now a days, it is all machine made and workers are only involved in the last step: packaging and shipping.   

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