Andrew Wuebbolt

External: CAFE

Peeps® are divisive. Many people simply adore the marshmallows chicks. Others despise them. It’s hard to find anyone who does not take either of those two extremes. Either way, the marshmallow treat typically consumed around Easter has (and is still creating) a very colourful legacy.

Before talking about Peeps® in particular, it is valuable to begin discussing the general marshmallow. Around 2000 BC, the ancient Egyptians would squeeze the sap from the marsh-growing mallow plant, Athaea Officinalis, and mix it with nuts and honey to create a treat reserved for the gods and Pharaoh. This delicacy also had the medicinal capabilities to soothe sore throats and colds, although likely in different forms. This original recipe likely stayed relatively the same for many centuries.

In the 1800s, this recipe made its way to France where candymakers combined the mallow with sugar and egg white then whipped it into a more familiar marshmallow treat. Interestingly enough, doctors were also using this recipe and whipping it into a hard meringue. It was then sold in bar form as a lozenge. Customers loved the marshmallow, or guimauve as it was known then; the only issue was that it took too long to prepare. By the late 1800s, candymakers had designed the starch mogul system which allows marshmallows to be made faster by using corn starch molds.

In 1910, an American immigrant from Russia, Sam Born, started innovating the American confectionary scene. He introduced “French Chocolates” to New York City and invented chocolate sprinkle production. Eventually, he was even given the keys to San Francisco for creating the Born Sucker Machine, an invention that allowed the sticks to be mechanically inserted into lollipops. By 1923, he opened up a shop in Brooklyn with the name Just Born to highlight the freshness of the products he sold.

Less than 10 years later, despite the Great Depression, Just Born expanded by moving its operations to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in the United States. Just Born continued to grow through the acquisition of other smaller confectionary companies and successful brands of its own. In 1953, they acquired Rodda Candy Company, and with it, the small marshmallow treat known as Peeps®.

Initially, Peeps® were handmade in a process that took 27 hours to complete. For Bob Born, Sam Born’s son, this was way too slow, so he created a new machine for the process. “The Depositor” as it was called, was able to pump Peeps® out in about 6 minutes from beginning to end. This machine pumped out Peeps® all the way until 2014 when it was reluctantly replaced with an updated one.

Source: https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/56283/20-delicious-facts-about-peeps

Today, an average of 5.5 million Peeps® are produced each day, about 2 billion Peeps® each year — enough to circle the Earth twice. The Peeps® brand continues to grow today with products aimed at other holidays such as Halloween and Christmas, but they are still definitely well associated with Easter where they are the number 1 non-chocolate Easter candy sold for more than 20 years.

A picture of Peepza
Source: https://www.eater.com/2017/4/13/15271824/peepza-peeps-pizza

While some want nothing to do with Peeps®, others show a keen interest… some might even say an unhealthy obsession for the sweet treat. There is a World Peeps® Eating Championship held annually in National Harbor, Maryland, USA. Others use the treat with an artistic flair, with creations ranging from a mosaic of Jesus Christ to statues of dinosaurs made of Peeps. Still, others, clearly cannot eat it at enough meals in a day that they have created a monstrosity of a main course, Peepza (yes, Peeps® as a pizza topping). People have even created Peeps®-infused vodka. These do not even touch upon the crazy flavours that they come in which include: fruit punch, pancake-and-syrup, and even root beer float.

Given marshmallow’s colourful history, it almost seems fitting for an equally as colourful treat to come out of it. One may never know why these chicks are so popular. Whether adored or despised, their rise to fame has definitely made Peeps® a household name that does not seem to be going anywhere soon, to many’s chagrin and delight.

References

  1. Marshmallows – NCA. (2021). Retrieved 6 February 2021, from https://candyusa.com/marshmallows/
  2. Petkewich, R. (2006). Chemical & Engineering News: Science & Technology – What’s That Stuff? Marshmallow. Retrieved 6 February 2021, from http://pubsapp.acs.org/cen/whatstuff/84/8416marshmallows.html?
  3. History of the Marshmallow | Campfire Marshmallows. Retrieved 6 February 2021, from https://www.campfiremarshmallows.com/history-of-marshmallows/).
  4. Wells, J. (2016). The Long, Sweet History of Marshmallows. Retrieved 7 February 2021, from https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/86346/long-sweet-history-marshmallows
  5. Our History | Just Born | PA Candy Manufacturer. Retrieved 7 February 2021, from https://www.justborn.com/who-we-are/our-history/
  6. Wood, J. (2019). 16 Sweet Facts About Peeps. Retrieved 7 February 2021, from https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/56283/20-delicious-facts-about-Peeps
  7. McCluskey, M., 2017. Champion Downs 255 Peeps in 5 Minutes for Some Reason. [online] Time. from https://time.com/4734638/peeps-eating-champion-world-record/
  8. Horn, L., 2013. 16 Peep Creations That Put Your Easter Basket to Shame. [online] Gizmodo. from https://gizmodo.com/16-peep-creations-that-put-your-easter-basket-to-shame-5992770
  9. Filloon, W., 2017. Peeps Pizza Is an Easter Food Tradition Gone Horribly Wrong. [online] Eater. from https://www.eater.com/2017/4/13/15271824/peepza-peeps-pizza
  10. Romberg, R., 2015. 25 Crazy Uses for Easter Peeps. [online] Bargain Babe. from https://bargainbabe.com/25-crazy-uses-easter-peeps/
  11. Walsh, M., 2019. Peeps Announces a Whole Bunch of Crazy New Flavors – Nerdist. [online] Nerdist. from https://nerdist.com/article/peeps-new-crazy-flavors/

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