Candy corn was invented by George Renninger in the 1880s. Renninger was working at The Wunderlee Candy Company in Philadelphia at the time. It has also gone by the names of corn candy, Indian corn and chicken feed.
The classic Halloween candy features a broad yellow end, tapered orange center and pointed white tip. This gives it the color and shape of a corn kernel (though approximately 3 times the size of the real thing) – thus the name.
Chicken Feed was the original name for candy corn – one of America’s oldest candies. When it was first produced farmers constituted about half of the American labor force and rural society was the primary target market for candy corn as well as a slew of other agriculturally inspired treats,. These included Chestnuts, Clover Leaves, and Turnips.
It wasn’t until the 1940s, when war time sugar rations were lifted and trick-or-treating started to take off, that candy corn began being linked with Halloween. Candy corn was cheap and fall colored so it was an clear choice for handing out to little witches and monsters.
Production eventually passed to The Goelitz Confectionery Company – now Jelly Belly. They, along with the other major candy corn manufacturer today – Brach’s – use largely the same recipe as Wunderlee did 130+ years ago.
They have experimented with making various other seasonal forms of candy corn for holidays including Thanksgiving (“Indian Corn”), Christmas (“Reindeer Corn”), Valentine’s Day (“Cupid Corn”), Easter (“Bunny Corn”), and Independence Day (“Freedom Corn”) with varying degrees of success.
There seems to be deeply divided opinions when it comes to candy corn. Many people hate the confection, with one online article referring to it as the candy of “hobos, serial murderers, and Satan”, while another calls it “Satan’s earwax”. However, The National Confectioners Association (NCA) estimates that an incredible 35 million pounds (more than 9000 metric tons) of candy corn are sold each year. That’s around 9 billion individual pieces of candy!A survey they conducted in 2013 also found that 12% of Americans think of candy corn as their favorite treat.
These statistics, combined with the festive feeling many people who dislike candy corn have that it wouldn’t be Halloween without it means that we are sure to be seeing candy corn around for many more years to come.