Somewhere in time, Easter became associated with candy. Easter comes in second only to Halloween in the amount of candy sold, followed closely by Christmas and Valentine’s Day. Although well known for jelly beans and chocolate eggs, the true Easter candy success story is the Marshmallow Peep.
The Rise of the Marshmallow Peep
In the early 1900s, a Russian immigrant by the name of Sam Born opened a small candy shop in New York City selling mainly chocolates and other types of candy. His company began to grow and he decided to moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania were he named his new story Just Born. The name evolved from a slogan he had created to advertise the freshness of his product.
In 1953, the Just Born candy company purchased a local Pennsylvania confectioner named Rodda Candy Company. They purchased Rodda because of its jelly bean production, but soon became fascinated with the three-dimensional marshmallow candy the company also produced. Called Peeps, the Easter chicks were made by hand by a group of women at the back of the factory. At that time, it took well over 24-hours to make one Peep. Born mechanized the production of the chicks and was therefore able to provide the Marshmallow Peeps to consumers on a much grander scale.
No one knows why Rodda was making the chicks or whether they were also making other shapes as well, but somewhere along the line they focused their confection-making efforts on the yellow marshmallow chicks. The company didn’t start providing other marshmallow shapes until the 1960s.
Marshmallow Peeps Take Over the World
Over the years, the popular Peep grew to become one of the most recognized symbols of Easter Candy in the Western world. Every year, Americans purchase well over 700 million Marshmallow Peeps, as well as the more modern bunny and egg shape marshmallows. The company has added additional colored Marshmallows such as pink, lavender, blue, and white, although yellow remains the dominant Peep color.
From it’s lowly beginning in the back room of a Pennsylvania candy factory to one of the most recognizable and popular candies in the world, the Peep has obtained almost a cult-like following. The Marshmallow Peep has become an Easter tradition that appears remain popular for decades to come.