Candy corn is fall’s sweetest harvest, and a tradition most of us look forward to each year around Halloween. It is enjoyed by millions of devotees who love its sweet, mellow flavor. But this kernel-shaped confection also has a reputation as “the fruitcake of Halloween,” and in fact, some trick-or-treaters would consider it more of a “trick” than a “treat” if it lands in their goody bags. If that’s the case, why does it have its own holiday (October 30 is Candy Corn Day)? How did it become so popular, and why is it associated with Halloween?
Candy Corn’s Sweet History
The story of candy corn is an old one. This confection was said to have first been invented in the 1880s by George Renninger, who was a part of the Philadelphia-based Wunderle Candy company, where the candies were made by hand. While historians aren’t quite sure if Renninger was the actual inventor, it is known that around that time, the Goelitz Confectionary Company picked the recipe up and started producing it on a large scale. Today, the Goelitz Confectionary Company is still in business but under a more familiar name: The Jelly Belly Candy Co.
A Halloween Tradition Is Born
When Goelitz first started producing candy corn, it was marketed as “Chicken Feed” and sold in an adorable box that featured a rooster on the front with the tagline, “Something worth crowing for.” Its association with Halloween came much later. In the 1940s and 1950s, when trick-or-treating became a popular Halloween pastime (it had paused during World War II because of sugar rations), it was an easy favorite. Americans, who at the time had a largely rural background, steeped in deep agricultural traditions, loved giving out this harvest-themed candy to neighborhood children. And because producing candy was a slow, labor-intensive process, candy corn and other sugary treats were only manufactured from May to November, thus, the timing of the candy corn harvest before it ended tied it to Halloween.
How Is Candy Corn Made?
Candy corn manufacturers—and now there are many—have turned the art of this confection into a science. It all starts with a few key ingredients: Sugar, fondant, marshmallow crème, corn syrup, food coloring, and of course, a bit of vanilla for flavoring. All are combined and heated into a mixture that candy makers call “slurry,” which is poured into kernel-shaped molds, hardened, polished, and coated with an edible wax that makes them shiny and able to survive being grabbed by the handfuls.
Candy Corn Trivia!
- While chocolate candy rules at Halloween, 12% of trick-or-treaters want to get candy corn before other types of candy.
- These days, it comes in lots of different colors to match the seasons — shades of pink called “rabbit corn” for Easter, green, red and white “reindeer corn” for Christmas, and so on. No matter what the holiday, you can most likely find a candy corn color to match!
- Candy corn has its own holiday: National Candy Corn Day falls on October 30th each year.
- It is fat-free, with one large handful containing 140 calories and 28 grams of sugar.
- Candy corn keeps a long time — nine months in an unopened package, or up to six months if the package has been opened. Store away from light at room temperature to maximize that lifespan.
- More than 30 million pounds of candy corn are produced yearly — that’s roughly nine billion pieces!
- In honor of Goelitz, Jelly Belly developed a candy corn-flavor jelly bean.
Though it has a reputation as one of the least favorite candies at Halloween, candy corn is a delicious bit of uniquely American history that we can’t seem to go without.
Amber Kanuckel is a freelance writer from rural Ohio who loves all things outdoors. She specializes in home, garden, environmental, and green living topics.